Hospital Trusts

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21 October 1992.

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Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West 12:00, 21 October 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met the chairmen of health boards to discuss hospital trusts.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

My noble and learned Friend the Minister with responsibility for health in Scotland held one of his regular meetings with health board chairmen on 10 July 1992. In the course of that meeting, NHS trusts were discussed.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

Given that the majority of those who drafted the applications for the opting out of the hospitals are presently employed by the chairmen as managers in the hospitals in the national health service, will the Secretary of State ask those chairmen why, if they were making all the exaggerated claims for service contained in the applications, those claims have not been implemented? Does he think that it is reasonable for the people in Dundee and Tayside to believe that services will be improved simply on the basis of the trust application made by Tim Brett and others? Does he not think that that is a leap in the dark for those people in Dundee and Tayside to make on the basis of hope?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I think that it is desirable that those involved in making trust applications should be familiar with the health service. If they were not, and did not have the necessary experience, the hon. Gentleman would be the first to criticise. He talks about exaggerated claims for the future of trust status. He may like to consider the progress of those hospitals that already enjoy trust status. The chairman of the South Ayrshire NHS Trust hospitals summarised the main achievements the other day, saying: The Trust is treating more patients than expected.

Waiting lists and waiting times have been reduced.

The Trust is obtaining better value for public money.

Support from the local community is tremendous.

The Trust's financial status is healthy. Trust status is good news for patients throughout the health service and the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

Would my right hon. Friend like to tell the Opposition of the great success story of the Aberdeen royal hospital's NHS trust, which now has a one-stop breast clinic, evening gynaecology clinics and two new consultants and where a record number of patients are being treated who no longer have to wait for an hour when they are given an appointment? Will my right hon. Friend join me in saying that trusts are working successfully in Scotland and improving health care for the nation?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In addition to the achievements of the Foresterhill trust which he mentioned, he could have listed the introduction of bone marrow transplantation, increased levels of cardiac surgery, direct access for GPs to ultrasound and radiology, and the creation of additional neurology and paediatric consultant posts. Trust status hospitals in Scotland are working well.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Administration Committee

In the event of hospitals receiving trust status, is there any intention to cut the number of beds? Is there not a danger that the trust hospitals will be closed by the health board before hospitals directly controlled by the health board are closed?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I see little danger of the kind of circumstance that the hon. Gentleman describes. The fact is that trust status has enabled hospitals to treat more patients more effectively, to use better equipment and to increase the number of medical posts. That is all to the advantage of patient care; it is the positive aspects of trust status that are clearly shown up by experience.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in Tayside, where we have a superb health service, one of the great benefits of trust status would be that places such as Stracathro and Forfar would find it immensely to their advantage? We do not want trust status only in Dundee and not in the rural areas. Rural people and those who work in our rural hospitals want to have a say in their future—which is what trust status will give them.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I am interested in my hon. Friend's comments. He will know why we were unable to consider trust status for Forfar when it was first considered. If Forfar or Stracathro want to submit further applications, those will be looked at.

My hon. Friend might like to reflect on the fact that if the 14 applications that we have received in the second wave and the 20 expressions of interest for the third wave are translated in due course into trust status, 90 per cent. of hospital and community health budgets throughout Scotland will enjoy trust status. I feel sure that that will represent a positive advantage for Scottish health care.

Photo of Mrs Maria Fyfe Mrs Maria Fyfe , Glasgow Maryhill

Will the Secretary of State tell us whether, if he has such trust in trusts, there will be genuine dialogue with the local community, unlike the trusts in England? Will local health councils have a statutory right to consultation; if not, why not? Will trust board meetings be open to the public; if not, why not?

Of the nine chairmen-designate of the trusts announced three weeks ago, three happen to be well-known Tories and others may be less well-known Tories. It is true that all of them have good works in common, but do so many of them have to have faith in the Tory cause as well? Does not such bias create some doubts about the way in which those hospitals will be run?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I certainly hope and expect to see the full involvement of the community with trust status hospitals. Indeed, I enjoyed the company of the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) when he and I welcomed my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when opening the South Ayrshire Trust hospital. That is the sort of community involvement which I welcome.

The hon. Lady asked me about the membership of trust boards. If members of the Labour party show an interest in becoming involved in trust boards, I will be interested to learn their names. I wrote to the leaders of all the Scottish political parties after the general election asking them to submit to me names of members who might be suitable for health board membership. I have not had a single reply.