HC Deb 17 June 1997 vol 296 cc106-7
9. Mr. Donohoe

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to discuss financial provision with the chairmen of the health boards. [2337]

Mr. Galbraith

I held the first of my regular meetings with health board chairmen on 6 June 1997.

Mr. Donohoe

Given the commitment by the Labour party in the manifesto to do away with the crazy internal market—and, specifically, given the proposal to halve the number of health board trusts in Scotland—can the Minister tell us whether the two acute trusts in Ayrshire will be axed?

Mr. Galbraith

We have already begun to dismantle the internal market; detailed plans will be set out in a White Paper. We are also considering the merging and reconfiguration of trusts and we are asking boards and trusts for their views. There will be full consultation. Of course the trusts to which my hon. Friend refers will be given consideration.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

As the Minister knows, there are several proposals in various parts of Scotland, not least in Fife, for the amalgamation of national health service trusts. Will he assure the House that the single criterion to be applied before any trusts are allowed to amalgamate will be the enhancement of patient care?

Mr. Galbraith

I can most certainly give the hon. and learned Gentleman that assurance. The main reason for amalgamation will be to improve care for patients in the area. When we have drawn up our plans, they will go out to full consultation before any final decision is made.

Mrs. Fyfe

Has my hon. Friend noticed that Health Care International has applied to have its bed complement reduced from 86 to 50? Remembering the gross waste of taxpayers' money under the previous Government on an unworkable hospital, will he make a statement about the action taken by the Labour Government, after decades of waiting, to get a first-class, up-to-date maternity unit built at the royal infirmary?

Mr. Galbraith

I was pleased to announce yesterday that we have been able to find £31 million of public capital to build the new maternity unit at the Glasgow royal infirmary. I was concerned that the private finance initiative process was delaying the project. The new unit is essential, as Rottenrow, which has served us well for many years, has become out of date. I am extremely pleased that we can now move forward.

Dr. Fox

Health chairmen will understand that money cannot be spent on health without first being raised. The Chief Secretary has refused to rule out prescription charges for some pensioners in England and Wales; will the Minister rule them out in Scotland?

Mr. Galbraith

Our comprehensive spending review is for the medium and long term. Its purpose is to ensure that all public moneys are best used to fulfil our manifesto commitments. As we set out in our manifesto, there is no question of the Government doing anything to breach the fundamental principle of the NHS: that health care will be available to all according to need and free at the point of use.