HC Deb 02 May 2000 vol 349 cc19-20
14. Mr. Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)

What additional funding is being made available to health authorities in the south-east of England to facilitate the ending of mixed-sex wards. [119067]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ms Gisela Stuart)

Nationally, we are aiming to invest a total of £2.6 billion in NHS buildings and equipment for this year, part of which will be used to address on-going work to eliminate mixed-sex accommodation. The south-east received about £191 million of the £1.9 billion allocated so far. Of that, about £4 million will be specifically invested this year to help to eliminate mixed-sex wards.

Mr. Loughton

In August 1997, Lady Jay threatened: Any health authority which tells me it is unable to get rid of mixed sex accommodation within the next two years will have to have a very good reason. What is the reason for the Government's failure to meet their initial pledge to phase out mixed-sex wards within two years?

Ms Stuart

Unlike the previous Government, who expressed the intention of phasing out mixed-sex wards, but never set any targets or introduced any monitoring to establish what was happening on the ground, we have set the target of eliminating the number of such wards by 95 per cent. by 2002. There is no reason to assume that we will not meet those targets. We could not set a target of 100 per cent., because, as the hon. Gentleman will know, major capital projects involving huge investment and rebuilding in five hospitals in his area mean that that target must be met slightly later, which is right and appropriate. However, the 95 per cent. target—progress on which we are monitoring, and can prove—still stands, and we will meet it.