HL Deb 12 February 1976 vol 368 cc192-4

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have yet decided on the future of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, and, if not, when they intend to do so.


Yes, my Lords. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has given careful consideration to the representations made about the future of the hospital and is anxious to preserve the concept of treatment of women by women so long associated with the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and its maternity home. However, the continued use of the existing hospital would entail excessive capital expenditure and running costs at a time of scarce resources. My right honourable friend has decided, therefore, that the best solution is to transfer the facilities provided by the hospital and the maternity home to a district general hospital within the same area in an identifiable form which preserves the original concept of the hospital. She has asked the Area Health Authority to work out a plan to put this into effect as quickly as possible.


My Lords, in view of that somewhat disappointing Answer—tempered as it was by a wish to provide the work that this hospital does for women in some other form—may I ask the Minister to say when this is likely to come about? Does he realise that the present hospital is breaking up while the morale of the staff and patients is breaking down?


My Lords, we are not unmindful of the present situation and the views and feelings to which the noble Lord has referred. I can only say that my right honourable friend is anxious that this should take place as quickly as possible and that she has asked the Area Health Authority to go ahead with all speed. But obviously there are various considerations, not least among them the traditional facilities at the hospital which must, in her view, be provided, and the knowledge that this is a small and ageing hospital which, if it were to be continued, needs over £500,000 immediately in capital expenditure; also, for a variety of reasons, it is costing over £1 million a year to operate. For ail these reasons we shall proceed as quickly as possible.


My Lords, as the choice of other hospitals in this area is rather limited, may I ask my noble friend to indicate which particular hospital he has in mind for the transfer of these facilities?


My Lords, we have no particular hospital in mind. There are a number of hospitals in the area of the Area Health Authority concerned and they are exploring the facilities in certain hospitals in the area.


My Lords, what is to happen to the site of the present building?


My Lords, I just do not know. I know that it is a very valuable site and should be worth a great deal of money.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, rightly or wrongly, the feeling will now be abroad that "small" is not "beautiful"? Is he further aware of the strong feeling among women that the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital represents something very special as she was the first woman to break into a very difficult profession? Will my noble friend therefore convey to his right honourable friend the fact that these feelings are very strong and that she should think very carefully before she breaks up something which is a peculiar institution in the present Health Service?


My Lords, we are aware of that, and we have been aware of it for some considerable time. The noble Lord has tabled this Question because he is not satisfied with the progress that has been made in considering this issue; and that is because so much time has been given to these particular matters. I have myself been present on occasions and I know how much thought has gone into this consideration. We just cannot, for sound economic reasons, retain this particular hospital, but we shall provide in an identifiable form the treatment and facilities which have always been available at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital.


My Lords, can my noble friend say whether the name Elizabeth Garrett Anderson will be preserved, for is it not highly important that it should be?


My Lords, I should have to pass that supplementary question on for consideration by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.