HC Deb 22 March 1994 vol 240 cc128-30
12. Mr. French

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many responses have been received to consultation on the NHS draft codes of corporate conduct and accountability.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

There has been a universal welcome for the draft national health service codes of conduct and accountability which I issued for consultation on 13 January. Almost 400 NHS trusts, authorities and non-NHS bodies and individuals have commented.

Mr. French

Does my right hon. Friend agree that good practice, as set out in her codes of conduct, is in most cases already the normal practice? Will she join me in condemning the Labour party for picking on a few isolated examples to cast a slur on the NHS generally when most of the NHS staff are dedicated, highly motivated and ethical public servants?

Mrs. Bottomley

Public sector values are very much at the heart of the management and operation of the NHS—[Interruption.]—and that will continue to be the case. Like my hon. Friend, I condemn and deplore the way in which the Opposition take every opportunity to denigrate the commitment of those who have achieved a great improvement in patient care in this country. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. I should be obliged if the House would come to order and if conversations were less noisy during Question Time.

Dr. Wright

May I ask the Minister for her reaction to the fact that when I attended a recent meeting of my own NHS trust, at which the trust was adopting the new code of conduct to which she referred, I asked to speak and was told that I could not? Indeed, I was told that I was lucky to be there at all. Does that not show precisely what is wrong with the national health service?

Mrs. Bottomley

There is no doubt that the establishment of the new health authorities and trust boards has made opportunities for consideration of NHS matters far more effective and constructive. At the same time, the spirit of probity and accountablity is fundamental to the health service. The hon. Gentleman will for the first time be able to attend an annual meeting and to receive annual accounts and an annual report. There has been a transformation in the amount of information that is available about hospitals, the way in which they are run and the way in which they are funded.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there has always been excellent practice at Hammersmith hospital? The whole of west London welcomes her decision to keep that hospital in full order. Will she be similarly generous with the casualty department at Ealing hospital and confirm that its future is not in doubt?

Mrs. Bottomley

I am pleased that my hon. Friend welcomes yesterday's announcement about the new Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust. It will be one of 143 trusts to be established on 1 April, making 419 in all. Again, that is a major step forward for the national health service. As for the other aspects, my hon. Friend will know that the precise configuration of services across London and more widely continues to be considered. We shall always need to be sure that there are high-quality accident and emergency services and, above all, to continue the great investment in ambulance services.

Mr. Blunkett

Is it not a fact that the Government appoint their own nominees to trusts and then, as they are doing in London, allow those trusts to be subject to the vagaries of the market? When those trusts close great teaching and specialist hospitals in the capital, the Secretary of State washes her hands of the consequences and says that it is nothing to do with her. Is it not time that this nothing-to-do-with-us Government accepted responsibility for the health care of the British people?

Mrs. Bottomley

It is because we accept that responsibility that we are prepared to face difficult and complex decisions. I note that the hon. Gentleman described yesterday's announcement of the Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust as a fudge. On other occasions when difficult decisions have to be made, he also washes his hands of those decisions, although he himself said that no change was no option in London. We recognise that if we want to increase the quality and quantity of patient treatment—we are treating 1 million more patients than before the reforms, waiting times have fallen from nine to five months and there has been a steady improvement—difficult decisions have to be delivered with care.

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