Health Service Reforms

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 1:50 pm on 20th November 1996.

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Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 1:50 pm, 20th November 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next plans to meet the chairman of Grampian health board to discuss health service reforms. [3467]

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I meet all health board chairmen regularly to discuss all matters of current interest.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

When the Minister next meets the chairman of Grampian health board, will he tell him from me that there is considerable welcome for one development in recent years: the growing role of community hospitals across Grampian region? The Minister will soon receive an application for the upgrading of Inverurie community hospital, whose GPs are total fundholders. As the Minister has already agreed to the upgrading of Peterhead and Turriff hospitals, which have total fundholding practices, will he give a positive response to the application from Inverurie, which is an important community hospital in the heart of my constituency?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

The health board is currently considering proposals for investment in Inverurie hospital by the Grampian Health Care NHS trust. The board has not reached any final decisions on the purchasing requirements, but I shall certainly draw the hon. Gentleman's comments to its attention.

Photo of Mr Mike Watson Mr Mike Watson , Glasgow Central

When the Minister meets the Grampian health board chairman, will he discuss the problems associated with the private finance initiative which, as a result of health service reforms, is virtually the only source of capital projects in the health service in Scotland? Will he draw to the chairman's attention the difficulties associated with the Victoria infirmary in my constituency, where no funding short of that initiative is available? Will he clarify the attitude of the Scottish Office, which was previously so enthusiastic about the PFI, to the Treasury Committee's report on the initiative early this year? That report said that £3 billion of potential spending in Scotland was at risk owing to private companies using the PFI to boost their own profits rather than serving the public good. Will he give a commitment that the health service in Scotland will be funded on the basis of what people, not private companies, need?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

That goes without saying, but I can say that the private finance initiative will greatly increase resources for the NHS and make public sector funds go much further. We are taking forward a wide range of different projects, including the one to which the hon. Gentleman referred. We have had great success with some smaller projects. For example, Ferryfield in Edinburgh is a small project, but it saves the health board £100,000 a year, which is to the board's great benefit. We believe that, gradually, the sums will run into many millions of pounds—some £70 million has already been committed to PFI projects—and that, before many years have passed, they will be hundreds of millions and eventually thousands of millions. However, the plans must first be put firmly in place and they must add up and balance. We must be certain that they will provide the required outcome. Every detail has to be thought through to its final conclusion.