I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter, namely,
the decisions taken by Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale health authority last night resulting in hospital closures and reduced patient care.
It is important because it affects the Health Service provision for a population of 250,000. It is urgent because this is the last opportunity for three months to debate last night's decisions, after which time it will be too late to influence those decisions.
These decisions have become increasingly inevitable and I have taken every opportunity to raise these serious matters prior to decisions being taken. A delegation from the health authority recently met the regional health authority and returned empty handed with a clear instruction to implement a budget reducing expenditure this financial year by £1·3 million. Ministers and officials have dodged the revenue budget problem by constantly referring to the capital budget and to developments that have taken place.
Last night's decisions are unacceptable. They are based on assumptions that will not be fulfilled, and we shall still be faced with major problems unless the Government make more resources available. Consultation has not taken place about closing Victoria hospital. That hospital celebrated its centenary in 1986 and a new wing was opened providing new facilities at a cost of over £90,000, the money being raised by public subscription. Those facilities have not all been completed, and those that are complete have hardly been used because, suddenly, possible closure was suggested.
Last night's meeting agreed temporary closure of Victoria hospital and rationalisation of Rossendale surgical services in order to save £120,000. However, we know that temporary closure is effectively permanent closure and that the hospital will not be re-opened. The statutory consultation now to be held will be a token and a farce. In those wards already closed, equipment has been labelled for removal for some time. When it goes, and it will go. the cost of re-equipping those wards on top of the present financial crisis will make re-opening impossible.
When the hospital closes, some aspects of patient care cannot be provided at the other local hospitals remaning open. The general hospital cannot accept the transfer of all the X-ray facilities. It already has major problems and the ultrasound equipment is virtually in a corridor in the X-ray department. Much money was recently spent at Victoria hospital on updating the heating system and providing a central cook-freeze kitchen that supplies other hospitals in the group.
Hartley hospital is to close completely and the land is to be disposed of for a theoretical income of £150,000. The package goes on and on. It worsens Health Service provision and patient care in the area, and the health authority knows it. The last annual report of the district medical officer showed major health problems in the area and proved the need for more resources not fewer. The proposals are drastic and unacceptable. They will fail in their objectives and more cuts will follow. The matter is serious and urgent and must be debated in the House today.