§ Dr. Owen
Maternity services for south-east Cornwall are currently provided in Plymouth, where satisfactory facilities exist. Future provision in north and east Cornwall will shortly be considered by a working party set up by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Area Health Authority which will include representatives of Devon AHA.
§ Mr. Hicks
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what plans he has to improve the quality of hospital and maternity facilities available in rural areas;
(2) what is his Department's current policy in respect of the provision of hospital and maternity facilities in rural areas; if he intends to take practical steps to redress the existing imbalance between urban and rural districts; and if he will make a statement.
§ Dr. Owen
In the reorganised NHS the health authorities are responsible for the implementation of policies laid down by my Department and within guidelines issued as part of the newly introduced NHS planning system. They are expected to take into account the special difficulties 427W of rural communities. I am concerned that health authorities should continue to improve the standard of maternity care provided by offering better ante- and postnatal services and ensuring that confinement takes place as far as possible in well-equipped maternity units where the full range of modern obstetric and paediatric facilities is available. Where feasible, this will mean the concentration of deliveries in district general hospitals, but I accept that in some rural areas, where the scattered nature of the population would otherwise involve transporting patients in labour over long distances, the improvement of GP maternity unit facilities may be the most acceptable solution.