HC Deb 08 December 1992 vol 215 cc675-6
1. Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations she has received about the work of the Royal Free NHS trust.

The Minister for Health (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)

We have received many favourable comments about the quality of patient care at the Royal Free NHS trust.

Mr. Marshall

Has my hon. Friend seen the annual report of the Royal Free trust which serves many of my constituents and which can boast of a 9 per cent. increase in the number of in-patients treated, a substantial reduction in waiting lists and additional facilities for the mentally ill, victims of AIDS and the elderly? Is that not a record of which the Government and the trust can be justly proud?

Dr. Mawhinney

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and he will see that I, too, have a copy of the annual report which was issued this week. He will be pleased to know that I visited the Royal Free only yesterday and was able to learn at first hand of some of its successes as a trust. I endorse everything that my hon. Friend said, except that I would reverse the order—it is something of which the trust can rightly be proud and the Government also.

Ms. Glenda Jackson

Is the Minister aware that his previous reply will ring somewhat hollowly in the ears of my constituents in Hampstead and Highgate in the light of the news announced 10 days ago that operations at the Royal Free will have to be postponed due to the lack of funds from its central purchasing authority because of the news that the Royal Free will have to trim its budget by between 3 and 5 per cent., amounting to £4 million next year, which will mean that 16 beds will be lost to the national health service for ever? Far from solving a problem, trust status is creating a crisis.

Dr. Mawhinney

The hon. Lady's point is far from the truth. I am pleased to be able to tell her that those responsible for the trust were yesterday in much more robust form and were looking forward with far greater enthusiasm to the success that they will continue to achieve, building on what they have already achieved. The hon. Lady's constituents will be pleased that activity at the Royal Free last year increased by 10 per cent.

Mr. McCartney

Why does not the Minister of State tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about that particular trust? It has a hospital maintenance backlog of more than £18 million, two thirds of its staff accommodation fails statutory standards and it has legionella problems in the air-conditioning system, which have not been solved because of a lack of resources. By December, the trust will close at least three wards because of expenditure cuts in this year's budget, nurses are to be forced to work a 12-hour shift instead of an eight-hour shift because of the cuts, and vacancies will not be filled because of problems in the current budget cycle. In 1993–94 there is to be a 3 to 5 per cent. cut in the budget. That is a story not of success but of serious problems in the trust. The Minister should rethink and suggest real reasons why the trust is to be underfunded by £4 million next year.

Dr. Mawhinney

I do not recognise the Royal Free trust from the information that the hon. Gentleman tried to give the House——

Mr. Skinner

And he never took a breath.

Dr. Mawhinney

It was a great performance.

The Royal Free trust has managed to increase facilities for the elderly, including a new ward. It has increased facilities for the mentally ill and the elderly and introduced new facilities for those suffering from HIV and AIDS. It is treating more patients than ever before and plans to treat even more next year. If that is the hon. Gentleman's definition of failure, I hope that many more NHS hospitals are failures by his standards.

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