Health and Community Care (Highlands)

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 5 February 1997.

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Photo of Charles Kennedy Charles Kennedy Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 1:47, 5 February 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on his funding projections for health and community care in the highlands for (a) 1996–97 and (b) 1997–98. [12885]

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

Highland health board's 1997–98 initial revenue allocation is £138 million, which reflects a 5.6 per cent. increase in the board's basic allocation over 1996–97. The local authority grant-aided expenditure allowances to Highland council for its community care responsibilities are £24.5 million in the current year, rising to £26.6 million in 1997–98.

Photo of Charles Kennedy Charles Kennedy Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I thank the Minister for those figures. Will he acknowledge that, in the highlands, as elsewhere in Scotland, a mixed economy of provision, particularly in care of the elderly, will remain essential? Against a difficult financial backdrop, particularly in the local authority's social work department, a major consultation exercise is now under way, and public provision of care of the elderly faces a very uncertain future. There is uncertainty at such facilities as Urray house, in Muir of Ord, as there is at other facilities in the constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and for Inverness. Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston).

Does the Minister realise that local authorities are being put in an impossible position trying to maintain the level of public provision for care of the elderly, because they have simply not been given adequate resources by the Scottish Office?

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

The settlement includes provision to increase the community care allowance by £2.1 million in the highlands, which is an 8.6 per cent increase. I am of course aware that Highland council is currently consulting local interests as part of a comprehensive review of future arrangements for the care of elderly people in the highlands. I must repeat that, if the hon. Gentleman had his way and we were to give much more funding to local government, funding through the health service would be considerably less.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

Against the background of Highland council contemplating closure of residential care for the elderly in at least four places and a reduction of care in others, will the Minister very carefully consider the feasibility study that the Highland health board has proposed for Sutherland? Such a study might carry the implication of closing the excellent Migdale hospital, which is providing care for the elderly and psycho-geriatric cases, and post-operative and respite care. That health service provision is absolutely necessary if there is to be close co-operation between authorities in providing care for the elderly in Sutherland.

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

Requests for hospital closures must be cleared by us, and we would consider any such request very carefully before giving approval. However, I shall look into the case and the feasibility study mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.