Health Service

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd January 1989.

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Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth 12:00 am, 23rd January 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what initiatives he plans to take in 1989 to improve the standards of the Health Service in Wales and increase the morale of staff at all levels of the Health Service.

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

Record numbers of patients were treated in 1987–88, and the record level of resources announced recently by my right hon. Friend should enable authorities to do even better in 1989.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth

Does the Minister recognise the inadequacy of that response? Does he realise just how much ancillary workers contribute to the tender loving care that is provided by the Health Service and that their low pay is now a real embarrassment to consultants and administrators as well as to patients and the general public? What does he say to the domestic worker who this month told the South Wales Echo that the reward for 18 years' service was to be forced into part-time work and to lose £18 a week?

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

That is a change of song from how badly paid nurses were and remembering how badly paid medical staffs were in the 1970s. The hon. Gentleman changes his tune as it suits him. We have been seeking to ensure that payments in the Health Service go towards patient benefit. Competitive tendering is to the benefit of the patient and the Health Service. We shall continue that policy within the Health Service and local government.

Photo of Sir Raymond Gower Sir Raymond Gower , Vale of Glamorgan

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that health authorities in Wales use the money that is allocated to them in the best possible way? Is he aware that the South Glamorgan health authority, for example, proposes to use it in the wrong way? It intends to build an utterly unnecessary hospital in south Cardiff and not to make use of the marvellous facilities that are available in hospitals such as Sully hospital in my constituency. That is the absurdity of the position. Many consultants in the Llandough-Sully area have told me that they regard the proposed hospital for south Cardiff as wasteful, unnecessary and harmful to the Health Service in the county of South Glamorgan.

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

My hon. Friend's support for Sully hospital has been noted for many years. What he said this afternoon will be taken note of by my right hon. Friend in considering the draft strategic plan of the health authority which is before him at present.

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend

Has the Minister had recent discussions with junior doctors? What hours do they work? I believe that their hours are still very long. What has the Welsh Office done in the past year or two to provide resources to cut the hours that junior doctors on call must work in hospitals?

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

It is fortunate for us in Wales that few junior doctors in Wales work the long hours that have been reported in England. We take the matter seriously. Our district authorities convene meetings to look into the matter, and we are monitoring closely. As I said, we do not have the problem that is experienced in England.

Photo of Mr Keith Raffan Mr Keith Raffan , Delyn

When does my hon. Friend expect to publish the study that he commissioned on cancer treatment services for patients in north Wales? What action is the Welsh Office taking to reduce the lengthy time that north Wales patients must wait for cardiological services at Liverpool?

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

I shall write to my hon. Friend on the latter point. On the comprehensive study of cancer services, which was started on 1 September last year, it is a little early as yet for a report, but we shall certainly release it as soon as we can.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

Will the Minister explain—if he cannot explain, will he order an investigation—the substantial increase in deaths from breast cancer in six out of eight Welsh counties and from cervical cancer in four out of eight Welsh counties over the past 10 years? In view of the alarming figures, is the Minister satisfied that the screening programme in Wales is adequate?

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

The hon. Lady must accept that it is a little difficult to assess matters over the past 10 years when we have only just put in place the cervical cancer screening service, which is covering the whole of Wales now, and the breast cancer screening service, which, as she knows, was launched at the headquarters and with the new team in Cathedral road, Cardiff, and will be available shortly. It is a little early to draw conclusions from the past 10 years so I cannot answer her on that.

Photo of Mr Anthony Favell Mr Anthony Favell , Stockport

Are there any firm proposals to contract out medical services, following the excellent private sector kidney dialysis unit at Bangor, Caernarvon, which has saved lives and reduced waiting lists? Is that to be done elsewhere in Wales?

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

Certainly, this is a system that we would recommend widely. As my hon. Friend said, it has been spreading through Wales and we hope that it will serve as an example for other parts of the United Kingdom.