HC Deb 21 October 1991 vol 196 cc626-8
7. Mr. Denzil Davies

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he next intends to meet the chairmen of the health authorities to discuss the future of the health service in Wales.

Mr. David Hunt

On 20 November.

Mr. Davies

When the Secretary of State meets those chairmen, will he discuss with the chairman of the East Dyfed health authority the proposal to close the Mynydd Mawr hospital in my constituency? That hospital is for the elderly chronically sick, and there is a great danger that services for those people, along with the phrase itself, are beginning to disappear. Is the Secretary of State aware that however good acute and rehabilitation services, and whatever the expectation of life, unfortunately in the last three years of their lives many people will need to be looked after in hospital? Will the right hon. Gentleman look with disfavour upon that proposed closure and on any proposal to close a hospital for the elderly chronically sick?

Mr. Hunt

I understand that East Dyfed district health authority is consulting on the transfer of services for the elderly and that consultation ends on 2 November. If the community health council objects, the proposals will be decided by the Secretary of State.

Mr. Rogers

When the Secretary of State meets the chairmen of the health authorities will he discuss with the chairman of Mid Glamorgan health authority the delays in hospital reorganisation in the Taff Ely—Rhondda area, which have led to considerable underprovision? Although a new hospital is opening, there will be a substantial loss of beds in the area. I know that the Secretary of State has made arrangements for a meeting on 24 November and I am sure that he will receive with sadness, as will Opposition Members, the news that Mrs. Mattie Collins, the leader of Rhondda borough council for many years, died yesterday. At that meeting, which I hope to attend in her place, will the Secretary of State have an answer about this hospital reorganisation?

Mr. Hunt

At that meeting I look forward to discussing these issues with the hon. Gentleman. I join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the life of Mrs. Mattie Collins, who did such a tremendous amount for her area. I know that the news of her death will have been received with great sadness in all parts of the House.

Mr. Raffan

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the doctors, nurses and ancillary staff at Glan Clwyd and Wrexham Maelor hospitals on treating 1,000 more patients this year than originally expected? Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is yet further evidence of the excellent national health service available to those living in the Clwyd health authority area?

Mr. Hunt

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. The health service in Wales is now treating a record number of patients, it has a record level of funding and the proposed reforms are receiving enthusiastic support from a number of health service managers because they will ensure that the record level of funding is spent in the best possible way for the patients.

Mr. Gareth Wardell

When the Secretary of State meets the chairmen of the health authorities in Wales, will he make three things abundantly clear to them? First, will he make it clear that they are responsible, with a continuing role, for looking after the long-term intensive care of the elderly? Secondly, will he ensure that funds are available so that general practitioners can refer their patients to the hospital that they deem to be appropriate for their treatment? Thirdly, will he look again at the position of the orthopaedic hospital Rhydlafar, in Cardiff, to ensure that money is made available so that those arriving for major hip and knee operations are not referred back to their general practitioners? The money ran out before the summer recess, which is a cruel deception when that centre is available.

Mr. Hunt

On the hon. Gentleman's third point, he will know that we received a tremendous number of bids for waiting times for 1991–92, requiring funding of about £5 million against the £1.3 million that was available. Against that background, we were unable to support the bid in full. I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman knew this, but I am happy to tell him that a further £64,000 to support 40 additional operations in 1991–92 will be made available. I will respond to the hon. Gentleman on his other points.

The hon. Gentleman spoke about funding. I do not want any impression to be given—I want only the facts to be made clear. They are that in 1979 in Wales the health service received £481 million. At 1991 prices that is £1,113 million. We are spending £1,769 million, so we are funding at record levels.

Mr. Livsey

Does the Secretary of State realise that wards in psychiatric hospitals are still being closed despite the fact that there are inadequate facilities for community care and that the Mid Wales hospital in my constituency, at Talgarth, is the subject of a feasibility study? Will the Minister give us an assurance that no psychiatric patient will be discharged into the community without proper facilities being made available?

Mr. Hunt

I am happy to give that assurance. I thought that all-party support had been given to the policy of moving people into the community, with the requisite support services. We in Wales should take pride in the fact that, although admittedly we are not so far forward as many of us would like to be, we have made considerable progress under the mental handicap strategy.

Mr. Barry Jones

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that Pembroke health authority was given £50,000 by the Welsh Office to pay for its application for NHS status? Will he rule out, here and now, any further such bribes to get NHS hospitals to opt out of local health authority control? The people of Wales reject the handling of our health service by the Under-Secretary of State and they do not support the Secretary of State's policies on our health service.

Mr. Hunt

The answer to the first point is yes. The answer to the second point is that it was not a bribe—it was finance to fund the preparation of the first application for NHS trust status in Wales. I make it clear that neither I nor my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will entertain applications for NHS trust status unless we are convinced, first, that the hopital concerned will stay within the NHS, secondly, that it will be financially viable and, thirdly, that the change will result in better patient care. I can put that across clearly to the hon. Gentleman.

We are still being criticised on NHS funding. Let me put it in simpler terms. When we came into power in 1979, the health service was spending £171 for every man, woman and child in Wales. That was not a bribe—that was the level of spending that the Labour Government had reached. Uprated to 1991 prices, it would be £396. We are spending £614 for every man, woman and child.