HC Deb 18 December 1990 vol 183 cc146-7
10. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will visit Stepping Hill hospital, Stockport to discuss staffing levels.

Mr. Dorrell

I have no plans to visit Stepping Hill hospital. Staffing levels in hospitals are a matter for local decision.

Mr. Bennett

Will the Minister join me in congratulating Mr. Graham Pink on having the courage to describe so movingly in The Guardian and on television the major problems faced in Stepping Hill on the night shift on geriatric wards? Will the hon. Gentleman condemn the district health authority for suspending Mr. Pink for his whistle-blowing activities rather than solving the problems at that hospital? Does he agree that that is deplorable?

Mr. Dorrell

No, Sir. I shall not join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating Mr. Pink. The trouble with Mr. Pink's allegations is that he does not have the support of his colleagues, the clinicians in the hospital or the health authority's chief nursing officer; nor can it be established on any of the published criteria that his allegations are justified.

Mr. Favell

The best way to improve hospital services in Stockport is to amalgamate Stockport infirmary with Stepping Hill hospital, which are both in my constituency. Is my hon. Friend aware that the consultant in charge of the accident and emergency department at the infirmary has been pushing for that amalgamation for years, yet it is opposed by the Labour party because of cynical, short-term opportunism? The Labour party is prepared to put lives at risk to buy short-term popularity. At Stockport infirmary there is no blood bank or intensive care unit and there are facilities to deal only with broken bones and ear, nose and throat problems. Unless a person suffers from such problems, he has to be taken by ambulance to Stepping Hill hospital, down one of the busiest roads in the north of England. That is the Labour party's wish.

Mr. Dorrell

My hon. Friend makes his point powerfully, but he is not quite right in every detail. Although the Labour party here opposes amalgamation, the National Union of Public Employees supports it, so my hon. Friend has support from a wider section of the community than he might have expected. He is right to draw attention to the improvement that can come from the investment programme to which he referred. I hope that it will be possible to provide for that within a reasonable time scale.