§ Mr. Michael Brown
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he plans to publish the consultation paper on hospital policy; and if he will make a statement.
§ Dr. Vaughan
I have today published a consultation paper on hospital policy, entitled " The Future Pattern of Hospital Provision in England ". It is being distributed to a wide range of professional, statutory, voluntary and consumer organisations, and I hope it will be studied 269W closely. The Department is inviting comments as soon as possible, but by early October at the latest. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.
The Government's broad approach to hospital services is now generally known. We have considerable reservations about the development over the past 20 years of plans aimed at concentrating the majority of clinical services into very large district general hospitals. Not only is the total cost of these plans unrealistically high, but they have in some cases led to the creation of large, impersonal hospitals, remote from many of the people they are designed to serve, and to the closure of smaller local hospitals, which are held in high regard by their local communities.
The consultation paper suggests that district general hospitals should be limited in size, though not in the range of services which they provide, and that many services should be retained in local hospitals. Its emphasis is on making better use of the hospitals we already have rather than pre-empting severely constrained resources for a small number of excessively large new developments. The proposals are not aimed at securing a reduction in the level of hospital capital expenditure but a more effective use of the money available.