A comprehensive range of services is provided by the 10 local health authorities within the Mersey region, and the local family practitioner committees. Among them, the Liverpool health authority has plans to reorganise its paediatric and adult acute services.
Before the Minister approves those proposals, will she weigh carefully the grave anxieties felt by many people in the Greater Liverpool area about the future of the women's hospital and the Myrtle street children's hospital? Does she accept that both those hospitals provide a much-needed community service? Is the Minister satisfied that cervical cancer screening is being undertaken satisfactorily on Merseyside?
That sounds like about six different questions. The hon. Gentleman will know that we are at different stages in the consultation process. The paediatric facilities have been referred for ministerial decision and I have agreed to meet the community health council to discuss them. Further consultation will take place later this year on services for women and other adults. The hon. Gentleman will know that we issued a new circular on the cervical smear system on 12 January which takes into account the findings in Liverpool.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, while investment is taking place at Alderhey and other children's facilities, it would be unwise to over-invest, because Liverpool has a declining population and over-investment would be at the expense of growth areas elsewhere in the north-west?
My hon. Friend is right in his facts. Liverpool health authority now accounts for only 20 per cent. of the population of Mersey region, but over 25 per cent. of its resources, and that does not include any major psychiatric in-patient facilities. However, there are still a lot of children in Liverpool, and developments, particularly the £9 million being spent at Alderhey hospital, will improve their facilities.
Is the Minister aware of the strong opposition to the proposed closures of the two maternity hospitals, the only specialist women's hospital and the children's hospital at Myrtle street in Liverpool, all of which are in my constituency? There is total opposition to their closure from the women of Liverpool and Merseyside, the Health Service trade unions, the community health councils and doctors and gynaecologists. Do the Government really worry about the level of health care for women and children in the inner city of Liverpool?
Liverpool has about 10 major hospitals within a mile of the city centre, yet it has lost 300,000 people since I lived there, many to suburbs such as the constituency of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton). Some of them might prefer to have the services closer to home.