Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
The activities of NHS trusts in Scotland are monitored by the management executive of the national health service and, through contracts, by health boards purchasing the trust services. Should the interests of patient care require alteration of the regulations, the Government will do that. For the moment, we have no such plans.
Is there not a real danger that individual hospital trusts will undermine strategic planning by health boards? Could not a situation arise in Lothian whereby the health board will provide orthopaedic facilities in the new major hospital to be built just outside Edinburgh, but when that hospital comes into service the Princess Margaret Rose, which has become a trust, will continue to provide the same service, especially as many of its customers might well be GP fund holders and customers from outwith the health board's area?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State have made it clear again and again that the services provided by the trusts will be determined by the contract entered into by the health boards. On the exceedingly rare occasions when a trust and a health board could disagree on the nature of services to be provided—the thought which is at the back of the hon. Gentleman's question—I confirm that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has the power of direction.
Why does my hon. Friend think that the Scottish nation should be denied the excellence of national health service trust hospitals? After all, in England are they not a great success, treating many more patients than ever before—in fact, 6 per cent. more? That is patient care, and it is coming to Scotland. That is the beauty of the Union of the United Kingdom.
I am happy to reassure my hon. Friend that the undoubted benefits of hospital trusts, to which he rightly refers, are of course coming to Scotland. There have been 18 expressions of interest, and my hon. Friend will be interested to know that among those expressing interest are the West Lothian unit in Livingston and Monklands district general hospital.
The Minister will know that one of those 18 expressions of interest came from the Victoria infirmary in my constituency, which also serves part of his constituency. Will he give a commitment that, before considering whether to allow the opt-out, he will consult the people who use the hospital, and the community as a whole? Will he take on board their views or will he, as I suspect, deny them a say, just as he is denying the people of Scotland a say in their constitutional future through a referendum? He is doing that because he knows what the outcome would be—it would show that he was totally out of step with the people of Scotland and has no right or legitimacy to speak on their behalf.
I must tell the hon. Gentleman that I do not accept the views of Scotland United on such matters. In answer to his other question, we have made it clear several times that we do not see ballots, either within the hospital concerned or in the broader locality, as a basis for determining trust status. The public consultation phase lasts three months and provides ample opportunity for the views of staff and public to be known. The hon. Gentleman referred specifically to the Victoria infirmary and may be interested to know that I saw four consultants last Saturday morning—[Interruption.] I must inform hon. Members that I hold constituency surgeries on Saturday mornings. I saw the four consultants because they are constituents of mine and had points to put to me.