HC Deb 27 March 1996 vol 274 cc1023-4
10. Mr. Norman Hogg

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to review the boundaries of health board areas; and if he will make a statement. [21328]

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)

We have no plans to change Scottish health board boundaries in the immediate future.

Mr. Hogg

Does the Minister accept that, due to the reorganisation of local government, a fundamental change in local administration in Scotland has taken place and that, in those circumstances, reviewing health board boundaries would be appropriate? Does he accept that there have been other changes in the health service's structure and organisation, some of which have not been healthy? They include the dreadful experiment being conducted—against the public's wishes—at Stonehaven hospital.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Doctors and the local community have, of course, been consulted about Stonehaven. A purpose-built hospital is to be built very much faster than would have been possible through any other means, and it will be of enormous benefit to communities in the north-east of Scotland. We concluded that changing the boundaries would outweigh any advantages. Indeed, the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) made strong representations at a previous Scottish Question Time against boundary changes in his area.

Mr. Stewart

My constituency, where GP fundholding practices have been an enormous success—

Mr. Donohoe


Mr. Stewart

That did not sound as if it came from a constituent of mine. My constituency is currently divided between Greater Glasgow and Argyll and Clyde. I would be inclined to take the traditional Conservative approach and do absolutely nothing about it, but if my hon. Friend is inclined to make any change, would he agree to meet me before making any decision?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The answer is most certainly yes. We shall keep the matter under review, but we have no immediate proposals to change any of the boundaries.

Mr. Charles Kennedy

Is the Minister aware that one of his predecessors, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, advised me last year that, when the local government reform was complete, it would be time to re-examine the boundaries of local health councils in the Highlands health board area—which were decided several years ago by the present Secretary of State for Scotland in consultation with local hon. Members? Would it be appropriate, therefore, to arrange the meeting that the former Minister with responsibility for health in Scotland suggested and, given the parliamentary boundary changes in the highlands, to reconsider whether it would also be appropriate to establish an equivalent or, indeed, different local health council structure that would better suit the system of administration?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I shall indeed be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and his constituents if he so wishes.

Mr. McAllion

Does the Minister accept that there are more than just geographical limits to the jurisdiction of Scottish health boards, and that Grampian health board has, uniquely, crossed a boundary line in commissioning private consortia to provide NHS services at a privately owned and privately run hospital in Stonehaven? Is it the Government's intention to repeat anywhere else in the national health service what his fellow Minister described as "the experiment" at Stonehaven? It is a simple question and requires a straight answer from the Minister—yes or no.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

If other areas in Scotland want purpose-built hospitals very much more quickly than would otherwise be possible, of course I would support private finance initiatives. Indeed, many are now under consideration in Scotland. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that the people of the north-east should be deprived of the opportunity to have a brand new hospital within a very short period of time, that would be contrary to their interests.