Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 12:43 pm on 19th March 1997.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) on securing a debate on this important subject. I should like to say straight away that there have certainly been no cuts in specification for the new hospital.
I am extremely encouraged by the recent good progress towards securing the new facility, and I am delighted that more locally based, responsive health services will in the future be available for the people of East Ayrshire. I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman's description of his concerns and those of his constituents, and I hope that he will be reassured that we are well on the way to delivering this important new facility.
I shall turn to the details of the development in its local context in a moment, but it is important to place the new East Ayrshire community hospital in a national context. The scheme that has been developed for East Ayrshire is an excellent practical example of the projects that we are encouraging and that will be supported by the initiatives in the White Paper "Ready for the Future".
The White Paper's main themes are an emphasis on prevention; better information for the public and access to services; greater responsiveness to patients' needs; effective continuity of care; and excellence in clinical and management practice. The positive features of the new East Ayrshire community hospital will translate each of those into action.
Most obviously, the convenient siting of the hospital at Cumnock will provide the easiest access for the greatest numbers of the people whom it will serve. Transportation links to the site were a key consideration for the trust. For both in-patient and out-patient treatment, as well as for longer-term continuing care, the hospital meets head on the challenge to ensure that patients have access to care locally wherever possible, and can avoid travelling to facilities many miles further from home.
The improved services and facilities will meet patients' needs better, tackle the particular health problems prevalent in the area, provide effective continuity of care and foster clinical excellence. The location of the new facility in Cumnock will offer new opportunities to develop new and effective strategies to improve the health service's action in preventing disease.
The development provides a first-class example of a primary care-led NHS. There will be accessible and locally provided services, and patient care will be properly planned and well co-ordinated between the primary and secondary care sectors. A broader range of services will be available locally, with access to a network of specialist support services.
Ayrshire and Arran health board has had very clear criteria about the objectives of the East Ayrshire community hospital project since its inception. It wanted high-quality, innovative, cost-effective services delivered locally for the people of East Ayrshire. I am delighted that we are getting closer to delivering exactly that