§ 1. Mr. Burden
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what meetings she or officials from her Department have had with Sir James Ackers or other officials of West Midlands regional health authority in respect of the deficit faced by South Birmingham health authority.
§ The Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Tom Sackville)
Officials from my Department have held a number of meetings with the West Midlands regional health authority to discuss this matter.
§ Mr. Burden
Is the Minister aware that news of the multi-million pound cash crisis facing South Birmingham health authority started to filter out at the end of February this year, but was hushed up until after the general election? Is he also aware that the report into the causes of the crisis has still not been published, but the people of Birmingham are faced with proposals to close hospitals such as the Royal Orthopaedic hospital, the Accident hospital and several others? Will the Minister intervene to ensure that the report into the causes of the crisis is made public straight away? Will he further intervene to ensure that all options are considered before decisions are taken and that the people of south Birmingham will not be forced to suffer hospital closures as a result of financial mismanagement or Government underfunding, or both?
§ Mr. Sackville
As the hon. Gentleman knows, as soon as the problem came to light, a report into its causes was commissioned from KPMG Peat, Marwick, McLintock. Extra money was allocated to the district to ensure continuity of service and also that all bills were being paid on time. Extra money is to be allocated over the next three years to ensure that the proposed action plan will come into effect smoothly and cause no disruption to service. 760 The hon. Gentleman also knows that the report is a technical report to the region, which will have to decide whether and when it will be published.
§ Dame Jill Knight
Is my hon. Friend aware that his denial of the allegation of any hushing up will be warmly welcomed by those in the west midlands who know the true facts? Is he also aware that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Burden) is mixing up two totally different issues? The first is the need to balance the books when there is underspending and the second is the BHB—Building a Healthy Birmingham plan—which is connected with the hospital closures that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. The two have nothing to do with each other.
§ Mr. Sackville
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. When Opposition Members see any change in the health service, they attack it. In the current case we are dealing with a £500 million capital investment plan to provide better and more modern hospital facilities for Opposition Members' constituents. That is what they are attacking.