§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Gourlay.]
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health for coming here at this somewhat late hour to deal with the question of the proposed 1364 Cheadle General Hospital. I hope that when he has had the opportunity to reply I shall be even more grateful to him and that he will be able to resolve the doubts and uncertainties which at present beset us when we think of the lack of progress with this hospital.
The electors of my constituency are very much concerned that the present Administration who were undertaking to improve the hospital services seem, from various accounts, to be slowing down the rate of progress in their projects. I am anxious to establish exactly when this very much needed hospital in Cheadle will be started. We have been pressing for many years to get the Cheadle General Hospital under way. I took a deputation to one of the hon. Gentleman's predecessors to make clear the urgent need that exists in the Cheadle area for the hospital. It was ultimately included in 10 major projects of the Manchester Regional Hospital Board and was intended to cost at that time, in 1961, about £2 million.
We had thought that this hospital would be started without fail in 1968. This would not be a moment too soon for the urgent needs of the area because, as the hon. Gentleman knows, a hospital of this size—one of 660 beds—takes a long time to build and certainly a considerable time to equip and get working. I want to emphasise that Cheadle is in an almost unique position in the matter of shortage of hospital accommodation, because the health division of Cheadle and Wilmslow has a population which in the not too distant future will reach at least 100,000 and, with the exception of one very small cottage hospital at Alderley Edge, there is no hospital in the division.
This is a serious situation and is made even more serious by the recent developments which have been approved by the authorities in my neighbourhood, chief of which is the arrangement which has been entered into by the Wilmslow Council to allocate 594 acres of land for the use of Manchester City Council, Wilmslow Council itself and private developers.
The result of this very extensive development will be that the population of Wilmslow will be doubled from its present 24,000 to 48,000. Therefore, this will make exceptionally urgent the need 1365 to build the Cheadle General Hospital, because there is no other hospital there that can provide the facilities necessary for the people in this vastly growing area. I say that no other hospital in the area can provide the facilities required by the residents of Cheadle and Wilmslow, but hospitals at present do, in fact, provide facilities under conditions of great pressure and of great inconvenience to patients from both the Cheadle and Stockport areas.
No doubt, the Parliamentary Secretary will tell me, not, perhaps, with any great pleasure, that under the Conservative Administration there was a considerable improvement in the physical capacity, the administration, the management and the care in the Stockport hospitals. My experience and my record of complaints, or lack of them, over the last year or so bear out that view. But, even allowing for some improvement in conditions in the Stockport hospitals, it still remains true that this vast area, covering almost 100,000 people, is by no means properly taken care of by the hospitals which meet the needs of the people of Stockport.
We have no proper hospital facilities at all, and this causes considerable anxiety to those who are concerned with the health of the people in the Cheadle and Wilmslow divisional health area. For instance, we have no provision in the division for maternity cases. As the hon. Gentleman will realise, the sending of maternity cases long distances, as we have to do in these circumstances, is by no means satisfactory. We have very little provision for the chronic ill in our area, and geriatric cases have no provision whatever.
I know that the hon. Gentleman will be anxious to do what he can in processing this hospital project. Many hon. Members will be in touch with him to say that their need is really urgent, but I put it to him that the need in Cheadle is outstanding because there can be few divisional health areas which have no hospital facilities of their own.
We have provided the Manchester Regional Hospital Board with an excellent site for the hospital. We know that we shall have a large number of people anxious to work in the hospital—certainly, a large number of part-time people who live in the immediate area but who 1366 do not now work in hospitals because they do not wish to travel. There will be an ample supply of people anxious to serve in the hospital, and we ourselves are keen to get things moving so that the urgent needs of our area can be served.
There are very few areas in the country which have grown as rapidly as the Wilmslow and Cheadle area. My own constituency now, I am sorry to say, has nearly 90,000 electors. It is about time someone came along to relieve me of some of the excess burden, and I hope that it will be done and in proper fashion. It is a very rapidly growing area, with no apparent diminution at present in the rate of expansion. As I have said, we have the arrangement to provide 594 acres at Wilmslow, as well as other large areas within the division for the purpose of Manchester overspill. If the need for the hospital was seen to be urgent in 1961, it is much more urgent now, in the light of the extensive developments which have taken place since and the even more extensive developments which are projected for the relatively near future.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will tell me that he recognises that this hospital has an outstanding claim to early building, that he will put his Government's record straight in Cheadle, if it is straight nowhere else, and that we can be quite certain that the hospital will be started not later than 1968.
§ 11.40 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Charles Loughlin)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) marred what was in other respects an excellent speech by trying to raise in a debate of this kind party political points which I had deliberately tried to avoid in preparing my reply.
In my Department, Ministers ought really to look at the problem as a whole. We are seeking to give a service to the community and we should consider the problem on the basis of the needs of the community rather than on the basis of an attempt to get a particular political advantage as a result of the action one takes.
It is true, as the hon. Gentleman says, that this is an area in which there has been a large expansion of population in 1367 recent years, largely because of the residential housing for those who work in Manchester or Stockport, and both the regional board and the Ministry recognise that a new hospital is needed to give adequate service to the inhabitants. I am glad to have this opportunity of informing him of what is being done towards providing the new hospital for Cheadle when resources allow.
I will deal a little later with the question of whether this Administration is deliberately slowing down the hospital programme. First, perhaps I might explain that Cheadle falls within the catchment area of the Stockport and Buxton Hospital Management Committee, which serves a total population of about 350,000. The long-term plans for this committee's area are to make the main hospital provision in two district general hospitals.
One of these will be the rebuilt and expanded Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, on its present site, and the other the new hospital at Cheadle to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. In the main, these two hospitals will be independent, but complementary in the sense that, where it is necessary to concentrate all the services in a particularly specialty for the area in one or other of the hospitals in order to create a viable unit, this will be done.
The precise size and content of each hospital has not yet been settled, but will be resolved with regard as far as possible to the convenience of the patients who will, naturally, look to each one of them. The hon. Gentleman has heard of the acquisition of the site for the Cheadle Hospital and I want to deal with this because so far, although much thought has been given to the needs of the area, the planning of the new hospital has necessarily been in the broadest terms.
This does not mean that no action has been or is being taken. Approval in principle has been given to the Manchester Regional Hospital Board to purchase the site which is owned by the governors of Cheadle Royal Hospital and is across the road from that hospital. This approval might have been given, and the purchase of the land completed some months ago, but for major changes in the local authority road proposals for the area 1368 which, even now, are preventing a precise definition of the exact site to be acquired for the new hospital.
The regional board is in touch with the local authorities concerned to clear all outstanding matters so that negotiations to purchase the site can begin. Once the site has been precisely defined and acquired, the board can begin the lengthy and complicated process of the detailed planning of the hospital. As to the future progress of the planning and construction of the hospital, I must disappoint the hon. Gentleman, because I can say very little.
It is true that Manchester Regional Hospital Board had contemplated proceeding in three phases, but I want this evening to avoid committing the board to this arrangement since it may wish to reconsider it in the course of the current review of its programme. Similarly, I must leave the board free to decide what will be the content of each of the phases. The first phase must inevitably include a large proportion of supporting services whatever treatment facilities are included, but this is the case where any hospital is developed on a virgin site.
The hon. Member referred to the question whether the present Government were slowing down the hospital building programme. I know that the hon. Member will be disappointed that I can give him no assurance about the starting date of this hospital, but he will see the sense in the Minister's policy of leaving it to the regional hospital boards to decide the relative priorities of schemes in the light of their full and detailed knowledge of all the conflicting claims upon resources.
The House will, no doubt, remember that on 8th February, my right hon. Friend the Minister stated that because the individual schemes which comprised the Hospital Plan had been imprecisely defined and costed, the resources available had been found to be insufficient for all the schemes to be undertaken. This is the sort of thing which must be taken into account by any Government in taking a responsible look at the programme as it has been projected prior to their taking office. We have to consider the schemes that were initiated or planned two, three, four or five years ago, and whether any changes have occurred which will materially affect the total cost of the schemes as they are put into operation.
1369 I ask the hon. Member to recognise that whilst we are reviewing the programme, we are doing so because we want to see the greatest possible progress in the utilisation of the resources which are likely to be available for this part of our social policy.
I should like to quote three short examples of how plans go awry when proposals which on paper appear to be correct prove, by virtue of the passing of time, to have been insufficiently and imprecisely costed. In the first example, the estimated cost of the project in 1962 was about £1 million. The present estimated cost, based upon tenders for phase one, is nearly £1½ million. In the second example, the 1962 estimated cost was £5; million. Today's estimate, based upon the price of phase one, is £6¼ million. In the third instance, the estimated cost in 1962 was £440,000, whereas the present estimate is about £1 million.
Obviously, if a plan is so imprecisely costed—not because of any deficiencies on the part of the Minister who initiated the plan, but simply because of time catching up, the changing monetary values and increases in price—the plan must be reviewed. I refute any suggestion that we are slowing down. What we are doing now is reviewing the whole position to see how far it would be possible to put into effect the policy laid down in the plan.
With the regional hospital boards, my right hon. Friend is now reviewing the plan, first, to have an even closer look at the content and cost of each project so that the programme as a whole can be balanced with the available resources; secondly, to examine priorities, particularly to see if the needs of geriatric and psychiatric patients have been properly weighed; and, thirdly, to give special attention to the co-ordination of planning with local health and welfare and general medical services. This review will be taking place during the next few months and the same careful consideration will be given to the needs of Cheadle as to all other parts of the Manchester region and the country as a whole.
The hon. Gentleman may feel that the priority given to the building of the new Cheadle Hospital has not been high enough. He is perfectly entitled to urge the merits of the case and the needs of 1370 his constituents, and I make no complaint about that. But he is not the only hon. Member who, in one way or another, perfectly properly, has brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend the claims of his own constituency. I replied to a debate a fortnight ago on the claims of another hon. Member's constituency in the same way, and I have reason to assume that within a few weeks I shall have further claims from other hon. Members for their constituencies.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the amount of resources which the country can devote to the building of new hospitals is limited. If he does, he must accept that we cannot do everything we would like to do at once. This means that there must be a list of priorities. Within the regions, my right hon. Friend looks to the regional boards to decide priorities in the light of their own detailed knowledge of local conditions and local needs. Frankly, neither my right hon. Friend nor I would wish to interfere with the decisions of the boards in these matters. If the new Cheadle Hospital has not been given the highest priority among the region's projects, this is because the needs elsewhere are even greater and more urgent and it follows that an early starting date could be found for this project only by deferring others which, in the board's considered view, are more urgent and on which the planning is more advanced.
I am sorry that I am not able to give the hon. Gentleman definite assurances, or any definite dates this evening. I feel sure that he will accept that it would be wrong for the Ministry to try to say to the people in the regions that we know better than they about priorities in the regions which they serve. The regional boards know the regions and take into account the growth of population, to which the hon. Member referred, the absence of services and the need to coordinate the various services in the areas within the regions. I am satisfied that the regional board in this case will give the Cheadle Hospital the highest priority in the light of the needs in the other parts of the region.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at six minutes to Twelve o'clock.