Hospitals (New Developments)

First Minister's Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:35 pm on 1 November 2001.

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Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour 2:35, 1 November 2001

To ask the First Minister what progress is being made with the Scottish Executive's programme of new hospital developments. (S1F-1344)

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Labour

The current hospital building programme—the largest in the history of the NHS in Scotland—involves eight hospital developments. To date, the new health facilities at Wishaw, Hairmyres, Glasgow royal infirmary, Edinburgh Western general, East Ayrshire and Balivanich have been completed and are open for patient care. The new Edinburgh royal infirmary and the new Aberdeen children's hospital will be completed during 2003.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

I thank the First Minister for visiting Lanarkshire on Monday and opening the second new hospital in Lanarkshire this year.

Does the First Minister agree that the provision of high-quality, modern hospitals must be complemented by a highly skilled, motivated and valued staff team? Does he also agree that the new, unified boards can play a significant part in strengthening communication between NHS staff and management?

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Labour

I agree with Karen Whitefield that the quality of staff is the most vital part of the national health service. We have not only the best technology and buildings—for example, in Wishaw—but excellent staff in every department in every part of the hospitals. We must ensure that good communications exist in hospitals and that every member of staff feels that they are part of the team. It is a long-term commitment of the Executive to ensure that we have not only the best NHS, but one in which the staff feel that they are valued and want to contribute even more.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

On the question of new hospital developments, is the First Minister aware that Lothian University Hospitals NHS Trust is required to pay £1.9 million a year more than was originally expected to a private company for the rent of the new Edinburgh royal infirmary, which will amount to an extra £60 million over the lifetime of the private finance initiative contract? Does the First Minister share my concern about that? More important, will he give a guarantee that the extra £1.9 million that the trust is required to pay the private contractor will not be found through cuts in hospital staff or front-line patient services?

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Labour

I appreciate the point that Nicola Sturgeon makes and I am sure that the Minister for Health and Community Care also acknowledges her point.

We are moving ahead to improve facilities in Lothian—that is our main objective. We want to improve patient care and the quality of the circumstances under which the staff operate. I am sure that the point raised by Nicola Sturgeon will be passed to the Minister for Health and Community Care.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I am afraid that we have not done well with questions today because of points of order. I am obliged to move on to the next—

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

All right. We have finished question time, but I will take points of order, starting with John Home Robertson.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

My point follows on from the point of order that Iain Smith raised a few minutes ago. I understand that you do not have discretion to extend question time, Sir David, but the fact remains that Pauline McNeill and a number of other members have been deprived of their opportunity to put questions to the Executive today. May I suggest that you could have discretion not to take points of order until the end of question time? That is the practice in another Parliament and would protect members' rights to put questions to the Executive. It would also ensure that points of order will be addressed. Surely that is the way round the problem.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

That is a fair point. In the past, I have often asked members to keep their points of order to the end. I do not make up the rules—I am obliged to follow them. If members insist on raising a point of order, I must take it.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

I was going to raise the same point of order as that raised by John Home Robertson.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

I was going to raise the same point, Presiding Officer, and to suggest that you ask the Procedures Committee to examine whether points of order should not be allowed during question time. In addition, I ask you to consider the time that is allocated to the leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Conservatives. Mr Swinney's question took eight minutes and Mr McLetchie's took seven minutes, which took up 15 of the 20 minutes that are available for First Minister's question time. That left only five minutes for the remaining questions.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Iain Smith's final point is a matter for my discretion. I think that Mr Swinney and Mr McLetchie would agree that we have frequent conversations on that subject.

I call the convener of the Procedures Committee, to whom I defer.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Would you accept a motion without notice to suspend standing orders in order to allow the extension of question time by 10 minutes? [MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I would have to suspend all of standing orders, which I do not think would be wise. Let us learn a lesson today: points of order take time away from question time. That is the point that we should all recognise.

Meeting closed at 15:32.