HC Deb 16 April 1991 vol 189 cc154-5
10. Mr. Loyden

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received from community health councils about the closing of St. Paul's eye hospital, Liverpool.

Mr. Dorrell

The Liverpool Central and Southern community health council has written to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State objecting to the proposal.

Mr. Loyden

Is the Minister aware that the objections made by the community health council reflect the opinion of patients, staff and the wider public in Liverpool and throughout the region about the proposals to close St. Paul's eye hospital? As a patient there for nine years suffering from glaucoma, I suggest that I know more about the hospital than does the Minister or those placed in areas such as Liverpool to carry out Tory policy in the health service. Will the Minister reflect on the Government's attitude that patient care is of prime importance and take into account as soon as possible the views of patients and community health councils on the proposed closure of St. Paul's hospital?

Mr. Dorrell

We certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that patient care is the principal concern. The hon. Gentleman will know that the proposal is currently with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who has not yet taken a decision. Of course, my right hon. Friend will take account of the views of Liverpool Central and Southern CHC. He will also take account of the views of Liverpool Eastern CHC, which has not objected to the proposal. He will also take it into account that the effect of the proposal would be to move the majority of ophthalmic provision in the city of Liverpool out of a small and very old hospital into a modern hospital that was opened in 1978. That factor must be taken into account in assessing the issue which the hon. Gentleman rightly places at the top of the agenda—the quality of patient care.

Mr. Alton

Does the Minister accept that it is precisely because St. Paul's is a small hospital which has served the needs of the people of Liverpool for many generations that the people are so hostile to the idea of its being absorbed into a large hospital, the Royal in my constituency? Will he reconsider the reply that he gave on 12 March when he declined to see a delegation from the CHC led by the rector of Liverpool parish? Will he now see that delegation and consider especially the provision of ophthalmic beds for children in the heart of the community?

Mr. Dorrell

Liverpool Eastern CHC took up the question of the provision of ophthalmic beds for children and was satisified by the assurances that it received from the district health authority. I have already given an undertaking that we shall, of course, look at all sides of the argument before reaching a decision, but, in assessing the merits of the argument that it is a small hospital, much loved by the local community, we must also remember the clinical benefits that come from a broader base of clinical expertise within the same hospital. Those are balancing arguments and their merits still have to be assessed.

Mr. John Marshall

Is my hon. Friend aware that in the draft Budget produced by the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) there is no provision to increase expenditure on the health service? Does not that suggest that the Opposition's concern over the closure of the hosptial is synthetic indignation which the Labour party is unable to fund?

Mr. Dorrell

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that, as we consider the provision in Liverpool, Bradford and every other locality in the country, we must test the claims of the Opposition that they would be able to do better against their inability to extract from the dour Scotsman from Glasgow the promise to spend any more money on the health service.

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