HC Deb 25 January 1994 vol 236 cc148-9
4. Ms Estelle Morris

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations she has received from the West Midlands regional health authority about the increase in accident and emergency admissions in the last 12 months.

Mr. Sackville

No representations have been received on that specific topic.

Ms Morris

Is the Minister aware that the West Midlands regional health authority has just announced plans to close 1,500 beds in the city of Birmingham? Given the massive increase in accident and emergency admissions over the past few months, and the effect of that in terms of patients having to lie for up to 21 hours on trolleys in corridors and the constant and regular cancellation of elective surgery, does the Minister agree that further bed closures will exacerbate the situation? What action will the Minister take to stop the planned bed closures going ahead?

Mr. Sackville

If I may correct the hon. Lady, the report said that, over a period of years, between 1,000 and 1,500 acute beds may be surplus to requirements, depending on an increase in day surgery and various other factors, as she well knows. She also knows that, thanks to the establishment of an emergency bed co-ordinator for Birmingham, there are very many fewer incidents involving difficulties with emergency admissions.

She will also know that, only last week, the chief executive of the national health service circulated all the hospitals and health authorities with a document stating their responsibility to make flexible arrangements, so that, when there is a sudden increase in emergency admissions—for example, when there is an outbreak of influenza—the hosptials can cope.

Mr. Fabricant

Will my hon. Friend confirm that £404,000 in extra funding has been made available to the Birmingham Heartlands hospital for accident and emergency use? Is he further aware that, only the weekend before last, I had the privilege of opening a new wing in the Lichfield Victoria hospital?

Mr. Sackville

I am aware of a great many excellent developments in the health service.

Mr. Terry Davis

Is it not a fact that, although the number of emergency admissions in Birmingham has gone up year after year for several years, the health service, managers in Birmingham base their plans for this year on the totally unreasonable assumption that there will be a reduction in the number of emergency admissions? When will the Minister do something about health service managers who behave in such a totally irrational way?

Mr. Sackville

The House well knows that, in many parts of the country, there has been an unprecedented increase in emergency admissions during the past few months. Hospital managers must make their arrangements against that background. The hon. Gentleman and I have discussed the Heartlands hospital more than once. The emergency bed co-ordinator in Birmingham has been able to make dispositions so that there has not been a serious alert more than perhaps twice in recent months. That is against the underlying background of a rapid increase in emergency admissions. The hon. Gentleman should congratulate that hospital.