HC Deb 19 December 1990 vol 183 cc286-7
18. Mr. Canavan

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many applications or expressions of interest have been made for hospitals and other national health service units to change to self-governing status.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

There have been four expressions of interest in NHS trust status.

Mr. Canavan

How can the Minister possibly justify the proposals of the Royal Scottish National hospital management team, most of whom have no first-hand experience of patient care, especially when those proposals have been resoundingly rejected by 96 per cent. of the staff and by virtually all the patients' relatives who have written to or contacted me to express their concern about the threat to mentally handicapped patients? They surely deserve the security and continuity of funding which can best be guaranteed by keeping the hospital fully integrated with the national health service under the existing arrangements.

Mr. Forsyth

I do not know how it is possible for people to reject proposals that have yet to be forthcoming. The hon. Gentleman is wrong to seek to cause anxiety about the quality of care for mentally handicapped people in his constituency and to misrepresent the proposals as coming only from management. They have come from management and also from all the consultants concerned, because they believe that by going for NHS trust status they will be able to improve the quality of care. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I would want to study the proposals in detail before reaching a conclusion on whether they are the right ones.

Mr. Doran

The Minister seemed to indicate in his reply to the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) that there was a recommendation from staff at the Foresterhill site —one of the four hospitals to which he referred—that that hospital should adopt the course of opting out. The Minister is well aware that the widespread opposition in Aberdeen includes medical staff in the hospital, but it is widely believed that they have changed their opinion because of the carrot dangled by the Scottish Office of extra money or special funding arrangements to meet shortfalls and the pressing need for capital. Will the Minister confirm what special financial or other arrangements have been offered to hospitals opting out?

Mr. Forsyth

No special arrangements have been offered to anyone, other than those set out in our White Paper and in our working documents on NHS trust status. As more and more people in the health service identify the benefits that will come from being involved in decision making at a local level and from resources being allocated according to their priorities—as opposed to priorities set by the people above them, at health board or Scottish Office level—they are increasingly considering trust status as a way of enabling them to continue the very professional and capable job that they do. I urge the hon. Gentleman to study carefully the proposals presented by Foresterhill. I understand that two parallel proposals have been developed, one involving continued direct management by the health board and the other involving self-governing status. I am sure that they will be evaluated on the basis of which will provide the best deal for patients in Aberdeen, and that is right and proper.