HC Deb 25 October 1994 vol 248 cc742-3
4. Mr. Beith

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations she has received about redundancies in hospitals run by the Cheviot and Wansbeck hospital trust.

Mr. Sackville

We have received letters from two hon. Members. I also met the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Members for Blyth Valley (Mr. Campbell) and for Wansbeck (Mr. Thompson) on 13 July, to discuss their anxieties about redundancies at the trust.

Mr. Beith

Now that the equivalent of 51 posts have been lost in the Cheviot and Wansbeck group, now that safety standards have been publicly questioned even by a consultant, and now that there is even a threat of the closure of the Rothbury cottage hospital, will the Minister reconsider the situation and answer the question: why do patients have to suffer if the first year of operation of the trust system throws up something that would probably never have happened under the old system?

Mr. Sackville

Let me say how glad I am that the actual number of redundancies has been reduced to 27, the large majority of which are in administrative grades. I do not accept that patients will suffer. I have been given an absolute assurance that those changes will be made without detriment to patient care.

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman of all the good things that are happening at the trust, including the new accident and emergency department, at whose opening ceremony no lesser person than the right hon. Gentleman himself officiated?

Mr. Jack Thompson

Has the Minister seen the letter that I sent some time ago about the case of Charlene Bentley from my constituency, who broke an arm, went to the Wansbeck general hospital, was unable to receive treatment at that hospital because of the lack of beds in the children's ward and had to be transferred to North Tyneside to have treatment? Is that the satisfactory arrangement that he endorses in terms of that hospital and those staffing levels?

Mr. Sackville

I am aware of that case, and it is unfortunate that that little girl had to be transferred to another hospital. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman that the trust works on several different sites and is at a disadvantage in that way. It is not possible to provide all acute services at all sites.