HC Deb 17 July 2002 vol 389 cc269-70
1. Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr)

What recent discussions he has had with the National Assembly concerning the specialised health services commission for Wales consultation paper. [67872]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy)

I have frequent meetings with the First Minister of the National Assembly for Wales, and health is a matter that we regularly discuss.

Adam Price

The Secretary of State will be aware of the strength of feeling in west Wales about the proposal to centralise paediatric services in University hospital Cardiff. He will also be aware of the South Wales Evening Post petition, which has received more than 72,000 signatures. How has the specialised health service commission allocated its budget to date between the different regions of Wales? Does he agree that the Labour and Liberal Democrat Administration in Cardiff should base their health strategy on networks of excellence that are accessible to patients in all parts of Wales, not just to those in Cardiff and the south-east?

Mr. Murphy

Of course I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman the details of how the specialised health service commission for Wales operates because that is a matter for the National Assembly, not the Government. I agree that we need centres of excellence throughout Wales, but I am sure he is aware that the commission, which was established by the health authorities in Wales, is composed of specialists and they are giving the issues careful consideration. No doubt he is also aware that the matter is subject to public consultation. I am aware of the strength of feeling that he and other hon. Members have about the issue, but we must await the verdict of the consultation.

Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that I have lobbied him on the deep anger that exists in Swansea and south-west Wales because of the threat to the paediatric neurosurgery unit at Morriston in my constituency. The anger is evidenced by the magnificent campaign of the local newspaper, the South Wales Evening Post, which has received more than 70,000 signatures. Does he realise that many local medics say that the consultation process is flawed? Does he agree with me and, I hope, the First Secretary that devolution should not mean centralisation in Cardiff? Centralisation was wrong in London; it is equally wrong in Wales.

Mr. Murphy

Devolution of health services to local communities is a main feature of the new reorganisation of the health service in Wales. That is what it is about, and I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend on that. I know he understands that we have to balance the importance of achieving excellence in the delivery of medical service, which is recommended by the experts in that sector, with the issues that he raises. I am sure that his concerns, together with those of other hon. Members, will be made clear to the First Minister and the Health Minister. However, I emphasise that the decision will be made by the commission rather than the Assembly.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

The Secretary of State rightly says that the matter is subject to public consultation. As we heard, more than 70,000 people have signed the petition organised by the South Wales Evening Post. The unit is important not just for Swansea, but for the surrounding areas, including west Wales. We know that there is a good road network to Morriston hospital. It has a helipad, which Cardiff does not, and skilled staff whose commitment and dedication save lives. Will the right hon. Gentleman discuss the provision of that facility with the Health and Social Services Minister? Cardiff does excel in some specialities, as do other areas, but when paediatric neurological experts state that first-class care is needed within a two-hour period, the facility cannot be allowed to move on health grounds alone because the consequences will be grave.

Mr. Murphy

Of course I give an undertaking to talk about the issue with the First Minister and the Health Minister in Cardiff. The hon. Gentleman understands, as a native of Swansea, how important it is that medical services are of highest standards in west Wales. He can rest assured that I will take up the matter.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear to the health service commission that many of us in the House regard its approach as hypocritical? It holds it against Swansea that it does not have intensive care beds, but it refused to allow the hospital to have those beds despite a recommendation by the Welsh Office in 1998.

Mr. Murphy

The fact that my right hon. Friend has added his voice to the campaign is significant. He, too, can rest assured that I will raise his specific point with the Health Minister.

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