NHS Trusts

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th February 1993.

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Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid 12:00 am, 18th February 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many expressions of interest in trust status have been received from hospitals in the Belfast area.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

Belfast is part of the Eastern health and social services board area, in which all the units of management have expressed interest in attaining trust status.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

That is good news for the people of Northern Ireland, but can my hon. Friend do anything to encourage hospitals and health management units in the north-west to apply for trust status? In encouraging them to do so, he might well point out the example of a trust in my own constituency of Mid-Staffordshire. The Mental Health Foundation has increased the number of psychiatric consultants fourfold and the number of community psychiatric nurses from 12 to 58 since becoming a trust.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; the benefits of trust status are becoming more evident to all. In Northern Ireland, in the first wave there were three applications, of which one is now a trust; in the second wave there were 11 applications, nine of which are now proceeding; and in the third wave, which my noble Friend Lord Arran introduced recently, four applied and four have been granted. I do not believe that it is the Government's role to try to encourage trust status as such —[Interruption.]—because the advantages are apparent to all.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South

Does the Minister accept that four trusts were not able to be appointed because the necessary legislation was not in place? Does he appreciate that those seeking to implement trust status have difficulty doing so when the health and social services board interferes in the arrangements? I am thinking particularly of the City hospital in my constituency, where for several years a senior board official has been seeking to rubbish the Jubilee maternity hospital, which has been giving excellent service and to which GP fund holders are glad to refer people, rather than take the advice of the Eastern health and social services board, which has said, in effect, "We shall not purchase, although your quality and price are right."

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

The hon. Gentleman's support for the Jubilee hospital is well known. Matters are still progressing on that front and the issue is still open for consultation. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the four community units of management to which he referred have been accepted in theory as trust while waiting for the legislation to be passed; I have every confidence that it will be passed and that those units of management will become trusts before the end of this year.

Mr. William O'Brien:

How many representations has the Minister received expressing concern and fear about trust status applying to social services and hospitals in Belfast? Why is the Department afraid of obtaining views on the concept of trusts from people in Northern Ireland who work for and serve in the health and social services sector? Why is the Minister afraid of addressing the fundamental issues of trusts in Belfast in particular and in Northern Ireland in general, particularly as they apply to the social services?

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

My noble Friend Lord Arran is certainly addressing the issue of trusts. Indeed, had the hon. Gentleman been listening more carefully earlier he would have heard that the record on the establishment on trust status in Northern Ireland is ever increasing; they are becoming more and more popular and not one trust that has been applied for has expressed any regrets. More than that, the level of complaints after a trust has been established has dwindled to almost nothing. In other words, fears are being exploited by Opposition Members, whereas the reality is benefits to patients, which is exactly what trust status is designed to achieved.