§ 19. Mr. Dudley Smith
asked the Minister of Health when he expects to receive the first proposals for the closure 4 of small general hospitals operating within the Hospitals Service.
§ Mr. K. Robinson
I am continuing to receive such proposals, as improved facilities become available.
§ Mr. Smith
Is the Minister aware that since he made his first comments on this subject there has been growing pessimism among the supporters and administrators of small hospitals, which they fear will be turned into either geriatric units or closed down altogether? Is he aware that these hospitals are functioning satisfactorily and are enjoyed and supported by local communities? Will he look most sympathetically at any proposals which reach him?
§ Mr. Robinson
Only a very few general hospitals are being closed down each year. The majority of closures have been of convalescent homes, isolation hospitals or tuberculosis hospitals. I can assure the hon. Gentleman, as I have assured the House before, that no closure will take place except after personal consideration by me.
§ Mr. Wood
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that this is a matter which causes the most intense local feeling and anxiety on many occasions? Will he, therefore, give an undertaking that he will look at any proposals put to him at a very early stage in order to remove any unduly long feeling of anxiety which may exist between the time the proposals are made and the time the decision comes out?
§ Mr. Robinson
This depends on the definition of the word "proposals". I am afraid that the enumeration in the original Hospital Plan of a number of small hospitals for which better provision might ultimately be made did give rise to many misgivings in certain quarters. As soon as there is a definite proposal on the part of a hospital authority to close down a hospital, I am anxious to see that there will be the maximum consultation with the local interests before the matter comes to me so that I can take that into account.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
Will my right hon. Friend reject vigorously any suggestion that the use of certain hospitals for geriatric purposes is unimportant?