Mr. William O'Brien
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the effects on the health care of the population of Northern Ireland of the rationalisation plans introduced by each of the health boards.
§ Mr. Ancram
I am not aware of the rationalisation plans referred to. Health and social services boards are expected to produce area strategies every three years which set out how they intend to achieve the objectives set in the Government's regional strategy, the current edition of which covers the period 1992 to 1997. As part of the process of implementing the regional strategy, which is designed to improve the health and social well-being of the population of Northern Ireland, boards are required to assess health and social care needs; secure the provision of a range of services; and monitor outcomes. I am glad to say that, as a result, the health care of the people of Northern Ireland continues to improve, with, for example, more people than ever being treated in hospital, fewer people waiting for treatment, infant mortality rates at an all-time low and fewer people dying prematurely from heart disease or strokes.