HC Deb 18 January 1968 vol 756 cc657-8W
Mr. Buchanan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what further action he proposes to take on the recommendations of the Farquharson-Lang Report on administrative practice of hospital boards in Scotland.

Mr. Ross:

A number of important recommendations in this report deal with the reappraisal of functions of board members and arrangements for delegation to officers, and the review and simplification of the committee structure of hospital boards. These have already been commended to hospital boards and good progress has been made in implementing them. On the remaining recommendations, after considering the comments of the interested bodies, I have communicated my detailed views to hospital boards in a memorandum of which I am sending a copy to my hon. Friend. In it I endorsed a number of recommendations and recognised that they have already been implemented to some extent. For example, boards have taken steps to improve internal communications and relations with Press and public, arrangements have been made for the training of medical administrators; the procedure for handling suggestions and complaints is being considered by a working party which I appointed. I accepted that regional boards should take opportunities which may arise for regrouping boards of management and reducing their membership on the lines recommended in the Report; and I noted that boards already have these matters under review.

Three major recommendations are affected by the review of the administrative structure of the health services in Scotland to which I referred in my reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) on 7th November, 1967. These are: that a post of chief executive should be established at hospital boards; that advice to boards on medical matters should be provided through a nationwide medical advisory service; and that the area of the Westrn Regional Hospital Board should be divided into two regions. These are fundamental changes, which the Farquharson-Lang Commit- tee considered in the context of the hospital service only. In considering any new form of administration, the geographical layout and the management structure would have to be worked out afresh; and I do not propose that these changes in the hospital service (all of which would take a long time to bring fully into effect) should be proceeded with while the administrative structure of the whole National Health Service is being reviewed, since they might be overtaken by further change. All relevant points made in the report will be taken into account in considering the review of structure.

The Report also makes recommendations on relationships between the hospital service and the universities. In the light of these recommendations, arrangements for joint consultation have already been reviewed in each region, and I have no doubt that the Royal Commission on Medical Education will also take account of this part of the Report.

The Farquharson-Lang Report has become a classic in hospital administration, and the emphasis which it places on streamlining of administrative procedures has already, I know, been the cause of considerable improvement. I am confident that this improvement will be maintained and carried through into any new administrative structure which may emerge from the present inquiry.—[Vol. 753, c.102.]