HC Deb 15 December 1998 vol 322 cc757-8
18. Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)

What progress is being made on plans for the new hospital in Swindon; and when it will open. [62460]

The Minister for Public Health (Ms Tessa Jowell)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions is currently considering whether the proposals for the hospital should be subject to a public inquiry on planning grounds, and will announce his decision shortly.

Mr. Gray

My constituents in North Wiltshire are very happy that the hospital is moving fast towards opening on its new site at Commonhead, which is so easily accessible from the M4, but are concerned that the considerations by the Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions will delay that. I hope that the Minister will have a word with him to encourage him to make progress as fast as he can. More importantly, will the Minister advise the House as to how many hospitals which are due to open in the near future under the private finance initiative, which her party so strenuously opposed before 1997, were planned under the Conservative Government?

Ms Jowell

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, none of the eight hospitals that are under way were planned under the Conservative Government. They promised a private finance initiative for hospital development, but delivered not one hospital.

Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Ministry of Health has recognised the inadequacies of the Princess Margaret hospital in my constituency and the need to update its buildings for the Swindon population as we look towards the next century? Will she do everything in her power to ensure that we get the much improved buildings we need as soon as possible?

Ms Jowell


Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)

Will the new hospital in Swindon provide much-needed neurological beds for the south-west region, especially in light of the experiences of my constituent, Mr. James Payne, who, having suffered a double fracture of the skull, was refused admission to a neurological unit in Taunton or in any of the other regional hospitals purely on the grounds that he was 65 years old, not on the basis of clinical assessment? Can that be right?

Ms Jowell

I am very happy to write to the hon. Gentleman about the distribution of services to the people of Wiltshire.