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House of Commons

Tuesday 16 October 2001

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]


Mr. Speaker: I regret to have to report to the House the death of Jamie Cann Esquire, Member for Ipswich. I am sure that Members in all parts of the House will join me in mourning the loss of a colleague and in extending our sympathy to the hon. Member's family and friends.


Equitable Life Assurance Society


Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

Purley Hospital

1. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South): What plans he has for Purley hospital; and if he will make a statement. [3763]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ms Hazel Blears): Under the current proposals, Mayday NHS trust is planning to develop a first-class out-patient and diagnostic centre for Purley hospital to serve local residents.

Richard Ottaway: I am delighted to hear that. I am glad to hear confirmation.

Is the Minister aware of the concern in the borough of Croydon about the lack of facilities in the south of the borough? In view of that, her statement is very welcome. But on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 as the lowest likelihood and 10 as the highest, what is the likelihood of this actually happening?

Ms Blears: I am pleased to be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that the likelihood is extremely high. I am aware that it has taken some time for us to achieve

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progress—I believe that 15 authorities are involved—but I am delighted to inform the hon. Gentleman that he will have a rehabilitation centre, a physiotherapy gym, specialist general practitioner services, breast screening, diabetic retinopathy services, updating of X-ray equipment, and even more. Those services will be greatly appreciated by people in the south of the borough, and this will be a magnificent centre to serve the local community.

Essex Rivers Healthcare NHS trust

2. Bob Russell (Colchester): If he will make additional funding available to appoint a second consultant neurologist for the Essex Rivers Healthcare NHS trust. [3764]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Jacqui Smith): The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to note that additional funding has been agreed for a second consultant neurologist at Essex Rivers Healthcare NHS trust. The post will be advertised shortly.

Bob Russell: That proves the value of tabling questions to get results! Is the Minister aware, however, that as of last week the one consultant has gone, and there is now no consultant neurologist in Colchester? Will she provide all possible support in her Department to resolve the crisis that clearly now exists, and, as a matter of urgency, to ensure that both posts are filled?

Jacqui Smith: As the hon. Gentleman knows, some of the issues surrounding the first consultant are the trust's responsibility; but I share his anxiety to ensure that we have the very best neurological service for his constituents. That is why the trust has, I understand, also advertised for locum consultants to help cover the situation, and it is why further support is being provided by the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Department shares his anxiety to ensure that patients in his area are given the best possible service.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney): I suspect that patients in the area covered by the trust sometimes need to be referred to Addenbrookes hospital for brain surgery, as is the case with my constituents. Some of my constituents have to wait quite a long time for such surgery, which is both terrifying and painful. Earlier this year, my hon. Friend's Department told me in a reply that it had recognised the need for additional resources for an additional neurosurgeon at Addenbrookes. Can my hon. Friend give me any idea of what progress has been made in securing that personal service?

Jacqui Smith: My hon. Friend is obviously reassured by the success that hon. Members have had today in raising issues about their constituencies. I will write to him further about the specific issues he has raised in relation to Addenbrookes, but I assure him that the Government's proposals in the NHS plan to ensure that we have 7,500 more consultants by 2004 are important in the medium term and, moreover, will guarantee that in the

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shorter term his constituents and Addenbrookes hospital receive the necessary support and investment that the Government are providing.

Mrs. Marion Roe (Broxbourne): Does the Minister accept that one of the questions that will be in the mind of any newly appointed consultant neurologist for Essex Rivers Healthcare NHS trust will be "When will the Government introduce their ban on consultants' working in private practice?" Can she tell us whether she or any of her colleagues has estimated the number of doctors who would be lost to the national health service as a result?

Jacqui Smith: Of course the way in which we use our staff in the health service is vital, and negotiations on staffing issues are under way. I assure the hon. Lady, as I assured my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard), that this Government recognise the importance not only of how we use the staff but of the number of staff. That is why we are investing in NHS staff and why there are already more consultants under this Government and there will be even more in the future.

Specialist Hospital Services

4. Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): If he will make a statement on the future of regional specialist hospital services in north-west London. [3766]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): On 8 October, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State approved plans to concentrate specialist heart and lung services in a redevelopment of the Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals on the Paddington basin site in west London and to maintain services at Hammersmith hospital. The decisions to create a specialist renal service at Hammersmith hospital and to centralise specialist children's services at St. Mary's were made at health authority level in December 2000.

A review led by the NHS eastern regional office is considering options for the future of the cancer centre at Mount Vernon hospital in Northwood.

Mr. Wilkinson: Does not the Government's decision to close Harefield hospital demonstrate that new Labour cares much more for the interests of property developers and the money men than for those of patients in north-west London and nationwide, who have made it clear in their scores of thousands that they want the hospital to remain open? Can the Minister give an assurance that the cancer centre at Mount Vernon hospital will not go the same way?

Mr. Hutton: I understand fully the hon. Gentleman's commitment to the hospital in his constituency—all hon. Members would feel the same—but I want to rebut firmly the ludicrous suggestion that the decision was made in the interests of property developers. My right hon. Friend's decision was motivated purely and simply by what is in the best interests of the millions of people in London and the south-east who will benefit from this major investment in cardiothoracic and other new hospital services for the wider population that the redevelopment will serve.

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I understand why the hon. Gentleman finds the decision difficult and I have every sympathy with him, but it does not advance the tone or substance of the debate for him to reduce it to such a level.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington): Is my right hon. Friend aware of the Government's excellent record of investment in the health service in Hillingdon, with £500,000 for the modernisation of accident and emergency, £1.5 million announced last week for the modernisation of maternity services, as well as a new mental health unit and three new medical centres in the south of the borough? However, the local community is shocked at the decision on Harefield. I seek an assurance that, before any decision is made on Mount Vernon, he will meet the Hillingdon Members, including the hon. Member for Ruislip- Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) and myself.

Mr. Hutton: Certainly, I can do that. I thank my hon. Friend for pointing out some of the other decisions that the Government have taken that will benefit not only his constituents but those of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood. Services are not likely to move from Harefield until 2007.

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire): Will the Minister publish the clinical information and evidence on outcomes in the free-standing cardiothoracic centres as compared with those in which services are provided in integrated institutions such as the one proposed at Paddington basin? That information will be considered by other cardiothoracic institutes in similar situations elsewhere.

Mr. Hutton: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we published a consultation document in September on the wider review of cardiothoracic services, and that will contain a lot of the information that he seeks. I understand that the Harefield hospital is the only stand-alone unit providing cardiothoracic transplant services. Elsewhere, they are being provided in a different format. I hope that he understands that we have given these issues the greatest consideration and have taken our decision in the wider interests of the NHS as a whole, including the many millions of people who use the services outside the Ruislip-Northwood constituency.

Ms Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington, North): I sympathise with the anxieties of people in Ruislip-Northwood, but my constituents in north Paddington very warmly welcome the decision on the development at the new hospital site by St. Mary's. The chief executive of the Royal Brompton and Harefield trust said that it will create

The only reservation that my constituents have concerns the fact that the new hospital development will not be fully operational until 2007. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that the funding decisions for the other developments at St. Mary's will be forthcoming soon, so that we can get on with creating what will be an absolutely cutting edge new hospital for the 21st century?

Mr. Hutton: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We want the new world-class centre on the St. Mary's site to be

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available at the earliest possible opportunity. She referred to the view of clinicians. The House should bear in mind the views of Sir Terence English, a distinguished cardiothoracic surgeon, chairman of the expert advisory panel on heart and lung services and a former president of the Royal College of Surgeons, who said that the decision

I agree strongly with that.

The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) asked me—it feels like a long time ago—about Mount Vernon hospital, and I apologise to him and to the House for not dealing with that point. The long-term review group that is looking at the issues has published three possible ways forward in relation to the review of cancer services at Mount Vernon. No final decision has been made and any such decision would have to be made subject to full public consultation. We have arranged for all right hon. and hon. Members who might be affected by the changes at Mount Vernon hospital to be specially briefed next week by the NHS about the issues.

Mr. Wilkinson: In view of the Minister's answer, I propose to raise these matters on the Adjournment.

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