Quality of Life

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 7th September 2004.

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Photo of Jim Sheridan Jim Sheridan Labour, West Renfrewshire 2:30 pm, 7th September 2004

What factors are taken into account when assessing the quality of life in Scotland's communities.

Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (Scotland)

There is no single indicator that can be used to measure quality of life. Indicators covering economic, social and environmental issues taken together can, however, reflect important factors affecting quality of life.

Photo of Jim Sheridan Jim Sheridan Labour, West Renfrewshire

I thank my hon. Friend for her response, but does she agree that good quality, accessible health services are equally important to the quality of life of all our constituents? Will she use her good offices to remind local health boards such as Argyll and Clyde, which is reducing health services in Inverclyde, that the money that the Government are investing in health services is meant to serve all our communities?

Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (Scotland)

My hon. Friend is right that the Government regard health as a priority for investment. I am aware that Argyll and Clyde health board is undertaking a major consultation on proposals on the future configuration of health services in the area, and I am sure that he will welcome its decision to extend the consultation period to 15 October, although, as he will understand, the provision of NHS services in Scotland is a devolved issue for the Scottish Executive.

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

Does the Minister accept that the indices of deprivation recently produced by Oxford university are being increasingly used to assess the quality of life in Scottish communities? Those indices are an improvement on what was used before, but from her constituency experience she will know that rural districts include areas of bad deprivation and severe poverty, with fragile economies and low wages. While I acknowledge the difficulties on the west coast of Scotland, can she give the House an assurance that rural areas will not suffer from the mindless application of indices of deprivation in future?

Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (Scotland)

The new indices are an improvement on what was used before and take into account current income, employment, health, education, housing and access to services. The geographical areas studied each cover 500 to 1,000 people, and that approach is helpful to rural communities. The hon. Gentleman and I have met to discuss the subject, and if he would find it helpful I should be delighted to meet him again to see whether more refinement is needed to reflect the issues affecting rural communities.

Photo of David Cairns David Cairns PPS (Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State), Department for Work and Pensions

While health policy is devolved, many drivers for change in the health services in Scotland apply across the United Kingdom, and include the European working time directive, the reduction in junior doctors' hours, the operation of the royal colleges, GPs' and consultants' contracts, and so on. Does she therefore agree first, that the House has a locus in the debate on the future of the health service in Scotland, and secondly, that we cannot solve the problems in the Scottish health service one hospital at a time? These are national problems affecting the national health service in Scotland and they need a national solution.

Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (Scotland)

The reconfiguration of health services, particularly the acute services review in Scotland, has attracted a great deal of energetic and robust debate. However, it is a matter for the Scottish Executive, and it would be utterly inappropriate for me to comment on the way in which health boards carry out their functions.