HC Deb 24 February 1998 vol 307 cc170-1
17. Mr. Prior

What proposals he has for community hospitals. [29331]

Mr. Boateng

As we said in our White Paper, we see an important role for community hospitals providing intermediate care close to where people live. The new arrangements that we are introducing will make it easier for hospital and primary care to work together to achieve that aim.

Mr. Prior

Is the Minister aware that hundreds of thousands of people, particularly in rural areas, regard their local community hospital as the most important part of the national health service? Will he give as much support and encouragement as he can to local health authorities that are doing their best to maintain as many such hospitals as possible?

Mr. Boateng

We recognise the vital role that many community hospitals play as a local resource. We want the best balance between them, acute hospitals and other community facilities to ensure the delivery of emergency, elective and rehabilitative care. Those three objectives, and a range of ways of delivering them, are at the heart of the new NHS.

Mr. Edwards

Will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming the announcement that building of the new community hospital for Chepstow will finally begin later this year? It will be the first hospital built in Wales under the private finance initiative.

Mr. Boateng

I am delighted to do so. That is another gain for new Labour.

Mr. Fabricant

Will not the quality of care depend on the number of people who can be employed in hospitals? Given that only a limited amount of money is available—albeit the Government claim that there will be an extra £1 billion—what representations has the Minister made to the Low Pay Commission on the minimum amount of money an hour that staff in hospitals should be paid?

Mr. Boateng

The hon. Gentleman is notoriously Whiggish on this and other points. Let us be very clear. We put our faith in NHS staff. NHS staff will be paid a proper wage. NHS staff deserve the very best. This new Labour Government will give it to them.

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