HC Deb 04 November 1997 vol 300 cc106-7
10. Mr. Donohoe

What progress he has made in respect of the proposals to reduce the number of health trusts in Scotland. [12047]

Mr. Galbraith

I have made clear my intention to reduce the number of trusts in Scotland. There is, however, no pre-determined blueprint regarding the configuration of trusts in Scotland. Any major reconfiguration will need to await the publication of the White Paper on the NHS in Scotland and the outcome of Sir David Carter's review of acute services.

Mr. Donohoe

I am grateful for that reply. What savings have already been made in the trusts in Scotland since the Government were elected? Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that that efficiency drive will continue?

Mr. Galbraith

As my hon. Friend will know, at the start of the Government's term of office, we were able to announce £10 million to go towards waiting lists from efficiency savings within the structure of the NHS in Scotland. We are also involved in trying to ensure that major efficiencies are achieved within the trusts in relation to such issues as purchasing, accounting, personnel matters and so on. We are making significant progress and shall continue to do so. Our aim is to ensure that every penny spent in the NHS is spent wisely and for the benefit of patients.

Mrs. Ray Michie

While the Minister is conducting that exercise, will he bear it in mind that Argyll and Bute NHS trust delivers a unique and localised service to remote rural and island areas? Does he recall that, under the last Government, efforts were made to manage the service from the central belt but, when jobs were moved from Lochgilphead to Paisley, it did not work and they were all moved back? I hope that he can give an assurance that that sort of nonsense will never happen again.

Mr. Galbraith

I am very aware about, and sympathetic to, what the hon. Lady has said. We must avoid what happened last time, when there was a blueprint for the health service in the UK. There are different areas, geographies, social structures and cultures, and we shall have different solutions for those. We shall lay down the principles; it is up to local areas to determine how to implement them.