HC Deb 24 May 1995 vol 260 cc901-2
20. Mr. David Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to improve hospital bed provision in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [24244]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

It is for each health board in Scotland to ensure that the needs of the population in its area are matched by appropriate health and health care services. That includes discussing with the NHS trusts and other providers of health services from which it purchases care, the number of hospital beds that should be available.

Mr. Marshall

Does the Minister accept the fact that the east end of Glasgow has some of the worst health statistics in Scotland and in the United Kingdom? Will he therefore deplore the proposals to close Belvidere hospital in Parkhead, which cares for elderly people in my constituency—or is he happy for it to be sold off or privatised à la Stonehaven? Just when will he start putting patient care before profit?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Any proposal for closure arising from the acute and maternity reviews will require the consent of the Secretary of State. Before the Secretary of State were to give approval for any such proposal, he would have to be satisfied that an equally good, if not better, system of care was put in place. However, I will certainly ensure that the Minister of State is made aware of the hon. Gentleman's opinions.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Does the Minister recall that it is but a few years since he was trumpeting the virtues of the national health service trust system? Is he aware that he has now contradicted himself by choosing private tendering for the replacement of Stonehaven hospital? Is he aware that, last night, there was a well-attended meeting in Stonehaven, organised by the Stonehaven and district community council, which voted by an overwhelming margin—by more than 2:1—against privatisation? Will he take heed of that, and abandon that dangerous heresy?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that there will be consultation. I wish to make it quite clear that, since trusts have been established, waiting times have shortened, more people are receiving treatment and there has been increased investment in improving hospitals. However, as I explained earlier, the purpose of the private finance initiative is to ensure that public sector funds go very much further, with higher standards for the patients.