HC Deb 27 February 1992 vol 204 cc1107-8
11. Rev. Martin Smyth

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment has been made of the adverse effect on maintaining and upgrading hospitals of the amount being spent in preparing hospital trusts.

Mr. Hanley

It has always been made clear that the Government's reforms are not to be introduced at the expense of patient and client care. Additional funds have been made available for the purpose and, accordingly, the reforms—including the establishment of trusts—cause no adverse effects on the hospital maintenance programme.

Rev. Martin Smyth

The Minister's comments may be helpful in the House, but they will not allay the concern that has been expressed throughout Northern Ireland—for example, in Upper Bann—about the amount of money that is needed to deal with the problem of concrete cancer at Craigavon hospital. Will he acknowledge that even those who are trying to implement hospital trusts are concerned that the dead hand of bureaucracy, which has increased, is hindering their work?

Mr. Hanley

The hon. Gentleman makes a serious point about concrete cancer and money will have to be found to deal with that in due course. I assure him that the money spent on the health reforms will lead to greater efficiencies and savings—its purpose is to improve patient care and to increase the number of patients treated—and it is extra to the maintenance programme. I am pleased to say that, as from yesterday, 11 new hospital and social service organisation units applied for hospital trust status in Northern Ireland. They recognise the advantages that will flow from trust status.

Mr. John Marshall

Will my hon. Friend confirm that NHS trust hospitals are treating many more patients than a year ago? Is it not perverse, therefore, that some people are suggesting that those hospital trusts should be wound up?

Mr. Hanley

I thoroughly agree that hospital trusts are proving their worth, but the national health service in Northern Ireland is succeeding with trusts even before they have been established. The establishment of trusts will improve matters. The total number of in-patients in Northern Ireland, including day cases, increased by 9 per cent. last year. The total number of operations increased by 15 per cent. and the total number of new out-patients by 6 per cent. With or without trusts, Northern Ireland is succeeding in health care. Trusts will make that even better.