HL Deb 16 March 1994 vol 553 cc230-2

2.42 p.m.

Lord Lovell-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the family house (Ronald McDonald House) next to Guy's hospital, which enables families to live near their sick children and which provides accommodation for children receiving post-surgical treatment, will be replaced with equivalent accommodation after the proposed merger of Guy's and St. Thomas's hospitals.

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, this is a matter for the Guy's and St. Thomas's National Health Service Trust Board.

Lord Lovell-Davis

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply but it will give no comfort to the Evelina Children's Family Trust which raised over £4 million to build, equip and run the Ronald McDonald House only four years ago. Is the noble Baroness saying that having made the major decision to move Guy's paediatric services to the St. Thomas's site, without any consultation whatever with the Evelina Children's Family Trust, the Government have no responsibility to ensure that the level of service provided by the house will be maintained on the new site?

Noble Lords


Lord Lovell-Davis

My Lords, it is a question. I am framing my remarks as a question. Can the noble Baroness say also whether or not the £2 million of charitable funding will simply be wasted?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, we are full of admiration for the work of the trust and what it has achieved. We know how important it is for children to have at least one member of their family near them when they are receiving treatment and care. Likewise, it is equally important for parents to be near their sick children. The trust board recognises the immense contribution the unit makes to those objectives and to ensuring that paediatric services are efficiently and effectively used. The board is working closely with the Evelina Children's Family Trust to try to meet its concerns.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that under Section 1 of the Children Act 1989 the welfare of the child is paramount? Does that consideration not also apply to the National Health Service, so enabling parents to be near their children for as long as possible when they are in hospital, partly for the child's sake, partly for the parents' sake, but also partly for the nurses' sake, as children make much better progress when that happens? Therefore, is it not the policy of the National Health Service overall to support the help that such a house would give for both hospitals, St. Thomas's and Guy's?

Baroness Cumberlege

Yes, my Lords. I agree entirely with my noble friend. That is why the trust is working hard with the Evelina Children's Family Trust in order to ensure that this unit is transferred to the St. Thomas's site and that it will continue to exist, albeit in a different form.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, is the Minister aware that at King's College Hospital parents are allowed to sleep on camp beds by the beds of the children? Do the Government generally encourage trusts and hospital authorities to make such facilities available?

Baroness Cumberlege

Yes, my Lords. In nearly every paediatric unit provision is increasingly made for parents and families of the children to stay with them when they are sick.

Lord Ashley of Stoke

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the problem goes far wider than Guy's or any other hospital in London? Many poor parents throughout the country cannot afford to visit their children in hospital, to the detriment of the child and the family. Cannot some special provision be made to pay for these families to visit their children in hospital?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, it is preferable, if possible, to ensure that provision is made on the hospital site so that travelling is cut to a minimum. With regard to travel allowances, that is the remit of my noble friend Lord Astor who deals with social security.

Lord Rea

My Lords, in a previous answer regarding the Guy's and St. Thomas's trust the noble Baroness said that Guy's would be developed in association with community services. Are not children's services particularly allied to community services? Would it not be appropriate therefore for the renowned paediatric unit at Guy's, made famous by the pioneer work of Professor Ronald McKeith, to be kept on the site at Guy's, liaising with the back-up services in the community and having the additional benefit of being close to the residential unit for parents mentioned in the Question?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, the exact details of the provision of services at Guy's and St. Thomas's have not yet been decided. The trust is working on that at the moment. I suspect that there will be out-patient facilities for children at the Guy's site. In-patient facilities at the moment, I believe, are planned to be on the St. Thomas's site. Once the trust reaches some decisions there will be consultation. That is a requirement in the National Health Service and Community Care Act.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, is the Minister aware that many organisations and individuals are concerned about what will happen, when hospitals close, to the charitable donations which they have made in good faith in order to improve hospital services? Will the Government in future discourage such donations to hospitals that are under threat?

Baroness Cumberlege

No, my Lords. The Government encourage as much community support for hospital facilities as they can. We recognise that there is an issue with regard to charitable organisations which have donated money. We know it is important that the trust for St. Thomas's and Guy's should work closely with those who have been major donors and with the special trustees. That is what it is doing at the moment.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, is it not the case, in relation to my noble friend's last answer, that the general law of charities makes provision by the doctrine known as cy pres for precisely the kind of question which was addressed to her?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, my noble and learned friend is correct. I wish that he was at the Dispatch Box.