HC Deb 09 December 1998 vol 322 cc309-10
6. Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)

If he will make a statement on the reconfiguration of NHS trusts in Wales. [61564]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alun Michael)

On 3 December, I announced decisions to reconfigure NHS trusts in Wales. Details were circulated to hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies on that day. Waiting list figures have been announced today by the Under—Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones). Figures are going down, which is another step towards delivering another of our manifesto promises. I accept that we have a long way to go, but we are on the way.

Mr. Smith

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the leadership skills that he has displayed in handling and dealing with that difficult issue in Wales? He has managed to strike a balance between the genuine concerns of local people—in my constituency in particular—and the need to make bold decisions to meet our future health needs. Can he give me an assurance that the quality of services at Llandough hospital and community health services in the Vale of Glamorgan will not be reduced as a result of these proposals? Will he meet my community health council to discuss its future, in view of the reconfiguration?

Mr. Michael

I am happy to meet representatives of the Vale of Glamorgan community health council, as my hon. Friend requests. I assure him that the service provided at Llandough hospital and in community services in the Vale of Glamorgan will remain integrated. I hope that services will continue to be of a high standard and, indeed, improve. I also assure him that the statement last week was the beginning, not the conclusion, of the job of improving health services in every locality in Wales. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. The House must settle down. It is rather noisy.

Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion)

Is it not the case that the reconfiguration exercise has been a half-hearted business, and that it will cause more disruption than gains through administrative savings? Is it not also the case that, as long as there are health authorities and trusts, there is an internal market? Do Ministers now accept that there should be an internal market in the NHS? If not, would they not be better abolishing all the trusts and moving to the kind of integrated system of health care and commissioning that is appropriate to Wales, and that would be cost-effective and acceptable in Wales?

Mr. Michael

The hon. Gentleman's question is rather odd, but I shall try to respond. We are certainly ending the fruitless competition between different parts of the health service in Wales. That is the purpose of creating trusts that are large enough and contain the three elements—acute, community and mental health services—to provide a single health service for the people of Wales. We have tried to recognise the unusual circumstances in his area—and in Powys, for example—which need to be dealt with by respecting local need. The example of health savings that we have is those achieved by the Pembrokeshire and Derwen merger, which exceeded what was anticipated.

Savings from that merger alone are £750,000. I am, therefore, confident that significant savings—perhaps larger than we have predicted—can be made and delivered back into patient care. I repeat my undertaking to meet the hon. Gentleman, and representatives of the health services and people who depend on them, in Ceredigion to discuss the specific circumstances there, which I know are difficult.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

Can my right hon. Friend tell me whether he intends to set individual efficiency targets for each of the trusts, whether they are new or have been left untouched by the changes? Can he foresee even greater savings and improvements in the delivery of health services in Wales coming out of that?

Mr. Michael

We expect the health service, including trusts, to meet efficiency targets. New trusts should present to us their plans for creating an effective, integrated health service for their areas. They should set targets and explain their intentions. I hope that we can make improvements in the health service together, and that trusts will achieve the targets that they have helped to set and which go beyond those set nationally. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend because, when he was a Minister, he did a great deal of the spadework required to achieve the improvements that we seek.

Madam Speaker

Order. If the Minister does not speak into the microphone, his words will not be recorded.