§ 5. Mr. McKelvey
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the total number of responses to the consultation process regarding the application for trust status for Ayrshire South hospital; and how many were for or against.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang)
Eight hundred and five written responses, including 579 pre-printed slips from local newspapers, were received. A petition was also submitted.
Opinions ranged from outright support to outright opposition, with many respondents expressing concern or seeking information about particular aspects of the application.
§ Mr. McKelvey
That answer is a disgrace. I asked how many responses had been received because we knew, from the responses that we had received, that the vast majority of the people of Ayrshire are totally opposed to the opting out of Ayrshire South hospital. That opinion is absolutely in line with that expressed by the people of Kincardine and Deeside who thoroughly rejected opting out at the ballot box. If the Secretary of State is able to give an honest answer at the Dispatch Box, will he tell us that if he genuinely surveys the objections and sees that the vast majority of the people of Ayrshire object to opting out, he will give democratic and fair-minded consideration to the consultative process and, at best, abandon the idea of opting out or at least postpone it for the foreseeable future?
§ Mr. Lang
I do not doubt that the majority of opinion as expressed in the submissions was opposed to the opting out process, although it is impossible to categorise opinions in the way that the hon. Gentleman would wish. Much though I understand the worries expressed by residents of the district to be served by the hospital, one must also take account of the basis of their concern, and the misinformation which has caused their alarm. I must take account of the quality of representations as well as the sheer quantity. The application is measured against four clearly published criteria which include patient care, the competence of the management, the involvement of professional and clinical staff and the financial viability of the application. That is the basis on which I shall consider the application, and I will do so carefully.
§ Mr. Galbraith
Will the Secretary of State confirm that he has already decided to refuse the trust application from the Royal Scottish National hospital at Larbert arid to suspend the applications from Foresterhill and Ayrshire South hospitals, designating them as shadow trusts, whatever that means? When will the Secretary of State make a decision and give us an answer on that most important issue? Rather than procrastinating with shadow trusts, why does he not do what the incoming Labour Government will do and abandon the ill-conceived, ill-considered, useless and unwanted ideas about trust hospitals?
§ Mr. Lang
I have not reached a conclusion on any of the applications before me. I am giving them the most careful 1066 and thorough consideration, and I shall reach a decision and announce it as soon as I can. I certainly shall not follow the example of the last Labour Government's handling of the health service. We have achieved a dramatic improvement as a result of the extra funding that we have put into the health service in the past 12 years.
§ Mr. Speaker
No, I did not call the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) and I know that the hospital is in his constituency, but perhaps he will be patient.