HC Deb 16 October 1990 vol 177 cc1048-50
9. Mr. Cummings

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the progress made on public consultation following proposals for the formation of self-governing hospital trusts.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

A total of 66 units have applied to become national health service trusts in the first wave, which will become operational in April 1991. Regional health authorities are currently consulting on applications from potential trusts within their regions. I shall announce my decision on each application after I have had an opportunity to consider the outcome of the public consultation.

Mr. Cummings

The Minister will be aware that Newcastle Royal Victoria infirmary is preparing for self-governing trust status in 1991. Is he further aware that in the run-up to 1991, 50 per cent. of children's surgical beds are to be closed for an indefinite period, thus denying a three-month-old baby in my village the chance of major surgery? Will the Minister confirm that the cash crisis in Newcastle Royal Victoria infirmary and the bed closures are part and parcel of a softening-up exercise to enable the infirmary to opt out easily next year?

Mr. Clarke

Newcastle Royal Victoria infirmary is an extremely successful hospital, which, together with the other hospitals in Newcastle, is expanding the service, and has been doing so rapidly during recent years, thus consuming additional resources. I believe that it is the location of one of the biggest building sites in Newcastle, where the next phase of development is being financed at present. It is most unfortunate that some people in Newcastle, who are surrounded by an expanding and improving service, spend their time trying to make allegations about a part of the service where the health authority has chosen its priorities in order to live within the ever-increasing sum of resources allocated to it. Doctors, nurses and others in Newcastle have expressed an interest in having more control over their own affairs. I am now considering the application in the light of the public consultations.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

My right hon. and learned Friend is fighting hard for additional funds for the national health service in his negotiations with the Treasury, about which I am delighted. Can he assure me that he is fighting for additional funds for the whole of the national health service, not just for hospitals that are prepared to put in a submission for self-governing status?

Mr. Clarke

Of course, I am buoyed up by my hon. Friend's support for my current negotiations, and am glad to have him on my side. The Government's duty is to ensure that funds are available to carry out the policies to which we are committed. We have to equate that with the need to keep down inflation, which we have done successfully in previous years. The past two public spending rounds have increased the cash available to the national health service by 20 per cent.—a better two-year record than any Labour Secretary of State could ever claim or would ever be likely to claim. My hon. Friend will have to wait to see what happens in the third year.

Mr. Robin Cook

Did the Secretary of State see last week's survey in Tory Sutton and Cheam, which found that among 6,000 residents there was a majority against the local application of six to one? As the Secretary of State cannot carry Sutton and Cheam, would he care to name to the House a single poll of the public that has come out in support of his proposals?

Mr. Clarke

Those surveys are usually carried out on the back of extremely misleading propaganda put out by organisations financed by the Labour party and trade unions. I am considering serious applications by those who work in the hospitals and public consultations that address the issues, not the allegations about opting out of the national health service and other nonsense disseminated by the Labour party. The hon. Gentleman must know perfectly well from his personal experience that there is considerable enthusiasm among the staff and those closely involved in many of the applications for self-governing status. I shall judge them all on whether I believe that those attractive plans can be successfully carried forward to improve the service to patients.

Mr. Michael Morris

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the consultation documents are full of information about how the various trusts will provide the capacity to fill up the hospitals, but are less informative about how they will actually achieve that? Will he ensure that any representation that is received and accepted contains a fulsome part showing how the extra resource will be made available?

Mr. Clarke

I am glad that my hon. Friend is studying the application documents, which is more than most people are doing who are organising local straw polls up and down the country. As my hon. Friend will know, the success of any hospitals in the new national health service will depend on the quality of care that they achieve, the quality of service that they give to GPs and patients and their ability to lag referrals. Some of the applications for self-governing status come from the finest hospitals in the country and they are confident that if they are given more chance to run their own affairs, free from the old bureaucracy, they will attract more patients and resources under the new system.

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