Intensive Care

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:21 am on 22nd January 1997.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 10:21 am, 22nd January 1997

I shall follow on from exactly where the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mrs. Prentice) left off. She and I have spoken. I have also spoken to a third colleague who, coincidentally, reflects, because of the party membership of each of us, the fact that this concern is not a party issue. All Members of Parliament have a duty to ensure that the health service works. The hon. Lady told the story of her constituent, Queenie Harrild. Queenie's son and his wife are represented by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), and the hospital Queenie died in is in my constituency.

Like the hon. Members for Leeds, East (Mr. Mudie) and for Lewisham, East and me, who have participated in the debate, other hon. Members also wanted a debate on intensive care facilities, because in spite of the efforts that the Minister and the Government have made in the past year, which I recognise, we are clearly not providing sufficient intensive care beds.

The White Paper "The National Health Service: A Service with Ambitions", which came out in November, set out the four principles on which the Government believe the NHS should be run. It should be universal in its reach, available to anyone who wishes to use it; high-quality; … available on the basis of clinical need and responsive, a service which is sensitive to the needs and wishes of patients and carers. By definition, that means that, in both emergency services and intensive care services, the facility has to be where it is needed and when it is needed.

The announcement that the Secretary of State made last year, to which colleagues have referred, which was the starting point of the last chapter of this debate, was very clear. He said: Decisions about the resourcing of intensive care cannot be subsumed into general arrangements for other areas. We have to look at intensive care—and with it goes high-dependency beds and other extra care beds—but we have to look at it separately. When considering resources, beds and their availability, as the hon. Member for York (Mr. Bayley) implied in his intervention, we have to look at this category of service on its own.

I should like to know, either this morning or by answer later, whether the Minister can now update the figures that show where all the additional beds have been allocated. I ask because, in addition to the announcement made just before Christmas, the Secretary of State, in yesterday's debate on the national health service, said that he had announced the distribution of some of the money— £4 million—just after Christmas to bring forward to this financial year the expansion of intensive care planned originally for next year. He said it would be used to deliver almost 100 extra adult intensive and high-dependency beds in the last quarter of this financial year."— [Official Report, 21 January 1997; Vol. 288, c. 761.] Apparently, there are to be a further 100 beds between 1 January and 31 March. We need to know not just where they are but which are intensive care beds and which are high-dependency beds.