HC Deb 07 December 1993 vol 234 cc125-6
1. Mr. David Young

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will provide resources for the immediate purchase of two additional intensive care baby cots in Bolton; and what account she takes of infant mortality levels in allocating funds.

The Minister for Health (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)

The director of public health of Bolton health authority has recommended upgrading and extending the intensive care provision for very sick babies. The health authority is acting on the recommendations and is in discussion with other local health service organisations to see how best to meet the need for access to two additional intensive care cots.

Mr. Young

May I press the Minister further? He will be aware that Bolton has double the national infant mortality rate, and that that trend is increasing. He will also be aware that we in Bolton have 50 per cent. below the recommended number of intensive care beds, and have had for some considerable time. When will those two additional beds be in operation? Babies are currently being transported as far as Liverpool and Leeds, which has been a contributory factor in the death rate. I hope that, at Christmas time, the Government are not going to play Herod.

Dr. Mawhinney

The figures I have for infant mortality in Bolton—as opposed to the figures for England and Wales—do not show a doubling, although I agree that the figures are higher than the national average. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have been encouraged by my initial reply. The discussions about identifying the two extra intensive care cots which the director of public health said were necessary are being conducted urgently, because everyone understands that those cots need to be provided.

Mr. Thurnham

In view of the links between low birthweight babies and maternal smoking, will my hon. Friend look into the way in which cigarette advertisers have been targeting Bolton? Is that not in breach of the voluntary code?

Dr. Mawhinney

I am aware of my hon. Friend's concerns on those issues because he has related them before to me and to the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Sackville). My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) is right to point out that the director of public health identified low-weight babies, smoking and teenage pregnancies as three issues on which the concerns in Bolton were different from those in the rest of the country. Consideration of those and other points is proceeding.

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