§ 10. Mr. Watson
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the effect on patient care of the proposals by Greater Glasgow health board for the reorganisation of its laboratory services with a view to their privatisation.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Forsyth)
There are no plans to privatise laboratory services in Glasgow.
§ Mr. Watson
I noticed that the Minister avoided the part of the question relating to patient care, but is he aware that 23 midwives who will graduate from Glasgow's Eastern college of nursing next month have been told by Greater Glasgow health board that, despite demand for their skills, there is no money to employ them, so they face the dole? What advice can the Minister give to those midwives and to the women of Glasgow who want their services?
§ Mr. Forsyth
We have enormously expanded the number of places for midwives and nurses in the Health Service. As the training provided by health boards does not guarantee a job with that particular board, my advice to those midwives is to apply for the jobs that are advertised throughout the Health Service. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will join me in congratulating health boards on having increased the number of midwives and nurses in our Health Service to record levels and on paying them more in real terms than they have ever been paid in the history of the Health Service.
§ Mr. Allan Stewart
May I congratulate my hon. Friend on wearing the blue rose of Eastwood following his highly successful visit to my constituency? On the point about laboratory services at the Victoria infirmary, can my hon. Friend comment on my alternative proposals, which involve retaining the laboratory services at the Victoria, concentrating National Health Service geriatric provision in the core of the hospital at Mearnskirk and involving the private sector in extending the facilities at Mearnskirk? Is my hon. Friend aware that so far those proposals have received what I would describe as a reasonably fair wind from many people involved?
§ Dr. Godman
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seem to recollect your telling the House that it would be most welcome if questions were brief and if answers from Ministers were brief, too. You do not seem to be holding to that directive today, Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am keeping a careful watch on it, but interventions such as that do not help us to get on.
§ Mr. Forsyth
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) has made a constructive suggestion about Greater Glasgow health board's proposals for change to improve patient care within its area—that the Mearnskirk site should be used to improve geriatric provision in the city of Glasgow. That is a constructive proposal and I have asked the health board to consider it seriously. I know that its initial reaction is that it would like to study that proposal closely. I am sure that it will be taken into account along with all the other representations that have followed as part of the consultation process.
§ Mr. Galbraith
Is the Minister aware that the Leukaemia Research Fund had intended to site a new research unit at Glasgow royal infirmary but that, as a result of the proposed reorganisation of the laboratories in Glasgow, it is no longer planning to do so? Will the Minister therefore please look into the matter to ensure that that world-leading unit comes to Glasgow and to Scotland?
§ Mr. Forsyth
I begin by welcoming the hon. Gentleman back to the House. I was not aware of the proposal that he mentioned, about having a leukaemia unit at that hospital. I should be very surprised if, as a result of the proposals for the reorganisation of the laboratory services, it were not possible to develop services for patients in Glasgow, because those proposals will save more than £3 million, which will be available for additional patient care, including helping patients who are suffering from leukaemia. I am happy to give the hon. Gentleman the undertaking that he seeks and shall look into that matter and write to him, stating the position.