HC Deb 02 May 1990 vol 171 cc1028-9
13. Mr. Foulkes

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland for which hospitals he has had expressions of interest regarding self-governing trusts; and from whom the request has come in each case.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

Expressions of interest have been obtained from four hospitals in Ayr, Forfar and Aberdeen.

Mr. Foulkes

Will the Minister confirm that, in spite of the fact that Ayrshire consultants have voted 9:1 against opting out, the minority could still put forward a scheme, his placemen on the health board could agree to that scheme and then, on their advice, he could transfer the ownership of the new south Ayrshire hospital, built at public expense, to a small clique of his own supporters in Ayrshire, against the wishes of the majority of the medical and other staff and against the wishes of the majority of the Ayrshire people? Is not that the biggest steal since the great train robbery?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman's description of self-governing status is a travesty. If the proposals for the hospitals in Ayr are taken forward, they will give consultants and staff an opportunity to take part in making decisions at local level. The most important point is that self-governing hospitals will remain part of the National Health Service. They will not be transferred out of it. The hon. Gentleman may believe that decisions are best taken above the heads of people in the Health Service. He is entitled to his opinion, but many people in the Health Service will not take that view when they consider the opportunity.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend realise that those of us who are not hung up on the doctrine that we are given by the Opposition welcome the fact that at long last there is an interest in developing properly Health Service and hospital facilities in Forfar? Is he aware that general practitioners in Forfar are fully behind the programme?

Mr. Forsyth

My hon. Friend is perfectly right. The proposals for Forfar have come from not the health board or management but local doctors and general practitioners who see the opportunities that self-governing status will provide.

Mr. Ernie Ross

How many?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman asks how many. All the GPs in Forfar who are involved have put forward those proposals because they see the opportunity for improving patient care. Opposition Members who care more about dogma than about patient interests may care to reflect on that.

Mr. McKelvey

Does the Minister accept that I am more concerned with the dogma of democracy? Will he give an undertaking to the House, as he seemed to on the previous occasion when he was questioned on the matter, that many more people will be consulted about opting out than he first thought? If that consultation is widespread, will he stand by the majority verdict of consultants and others working in the Health Service who believe that health services should stay within the NHS and want nothing to do with opting out? Will he stick by the majority verdict?

Mr. Forsyth

The only advice that I can give to the hon. Gentleman is that he read the proposals. He uses the term opting out. No hospital will opt out of the NHS. If the hon. Gentleman reads our well-documented proposals on consultation, he will see that there are two stages. The first is expression of interest—the stage that has been reached in Ayr. After that there is the development of proposals or a business plan, if that term is preferred. At that stage there will be full consultation. The procedures that will be followed will ensure that everyone can take account of the proposals and form a judgment on the interests of patient care. That is the way in which the Health Service should be run. It is the appropriate way and I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would endorse it.