HC Deb 05 February 1997 vol 289 cc1007-8
11. Mr. Bill Walker

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what proposals he has to increase the value for money of care in the community funds; and if he will make a statement [12891]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Proposals are being considered to ensure that information on the net costs to local authorities of purchasing services from the private and voluntary sectors, as well as from their in-house providers, is made available to elected representatives and to the public.

Mr. Walker

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply. Is he aware that the chairman of the social work committee of Perth and Kinross council has told the private sector owners that, although the inquiry into Tayside provisions showed that massive savings could be made of between £3 million and £6 million in Tayside and between £33 million and £66 million in Scotland as a whole, nothing will be done about it and Government directives will have no impact?

Lord James Douglas—Hamilton

That assertion is incorrect. In the next few weeks, the Scottish Office will publish directions on information that local authorities cannot disregard, and the inspector's report made it quite clear that the three authorities could save between £3 million and £6 million, which would mean between £33 million and £66 million nationally.

In the public interest, electors should have the right to expect their councils to ensure that they get value for money for all their services, including in-house provision, and the facts should be made public. We shall ensure that that happens.

Mr. Connarty

Is the Minister aware that Central Scotland Healthcare NHS trust, which is responsible for care in the community in Forth Valley, is proposing to do away with its care managers and to sack 28 charge nurse sisters and replace them with 18 nurse managers, who will be responsible for double the number of patients? Sisters will no longer be responsible for contact with patients in the hospitals in the Secretary of State's constituency and other constituencies in central Scotland, including mine. Will the Minister take a stand and keep the sisters in the wards? Matrons have been done away with, and now the same is to happen to sisters. Will he prevent that?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The problem is not caused by funding for community care. The increase in funding for community care is £66.5 million, taking it to about £720 million for Scotland as a whole. I shall look into the individual circumstances about which the hon. Gentleman asked, and be in touch with him in due course.