HC Deb 12 May 1992 vol 207 cc481-2
3. Mr. Connarty

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on her response to the conclusions of the national confidential inquiry into perioperative deaths.

The Minister for Health (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)

We welcome this report. It shows that standards of surgical and anaesthetic care are generally high and have improved since earlier reports.

Mr. Connarty

Is the Minister aware that Professor Donald Campbell, who chaired the review, expressed concern about the inadequate location of emergency facilities, emergency operating theatres, intensive care units and high dependency units? Is he aware also that concern was expressed about the lack of adequate staffing in some of those units? I know that the Government's policy for Scottish health is dealt with by the Scottish Office, but the Government's general policy obviously impinges on my constituency. For example, is the Minister aware that nurses at Falkirk royal infirmary are expressing concern that the high dependency unit is not staffed adequately to be an intensive care unit? Does the Minister plan to do anything about the report in the near future?

Dr. Mawhinney

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be encouraged to know that the inquiry found that the standards of surgical and anaesthetic care were high and that the overall trends demonstrated considerable improvements since earlier reports. As for the hon. Gentleman's constituency, he will know that that is a matter for my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State.

Mr. Devlin

I congratulate my hon. Friend and the rest of the health team on their new appointments.

I point out to my hon. Friend that the report of the confidential inquiry into perioperative deaths shows that there are far too many intensive care units in small hospitals across the country and calls for their concentration into bigger trauma and stress units in centres of population. Does not that throw up some interesting conclusions for the large number of hon. Members on both sides of the House who frequently argue for the continuation of their own small cottage hospitals?

Dr. Mawhinney

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. He will be encouraged to know that there are nearly 2,500 available beds in intensive care units in England and more than 300 about to open.

We want to improve the provision of intensive care if possible, and proposals from the College of Anaesthetists are being considered.

Ms. Harman

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his appointment as Minister. Will he, however, demonstrate a little more concern and a little less complacency about a report which states that there are needless deaths after surgery because of the shortage of consultants and the lack of intensive care units? Perhaps, instead of telling us that everything is perfectly all right and running smoothly, the hon. Gentleman will act on the findings of the report and deal with the shortage of consultants and the lack of intensive care units.

Dr. Mawhinney

I am grateful for the hon. Lady's kind remarks, soured ever so slightly by the rest of her question. Ministers are not complacent. I have already told the hon. Lady of the number of intensive care beds and the fact that more are to be opened. She also asked about the number of consultants. She might more properly have mentioned the extra 100 consultants in acute specialties whose posts were created following publication of the White Paper "Working for Patients". I did not hear her mention, either, the 350 new consultants' posts that have been agreed as part of the new deal for junior doctors.