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Dr. Murrison: I asked specifically where the 6,700 intermediate care places would be located.

Mr. Hutton: We made that clear in the plan, but I can send the hon. Gentleman details of where the additional beds are. They will be in a variety of locations: some will be provided by the NHS, while others will be commissioned in a process of collaboration with the private independent and voluntary sector. Such services have historically been commissioned in that way, certainly when local authorities have been involved: the bulk of the expertise has come from the independent and voluntary sector.

As we have always made clear, we feel that identifying precisely where the extra intermediate care beds will be provided—whether they will be in the NHS sector, or in the independent and voluntary sector—would be a mistake. The process will involve a commissioning exercise, and flexibility is needed. The location of spare capacity, and the speed with which it can be used, will depend on local circumstances.

As always on these occasions, time does not permit me to say all I would like to say. Let me end on what I hope is a positive note. I share the hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for, and commitment to, community hospitals, as he described them. As I have tried to convey to the House, the Government believe that they will play an important role in a number of key areas affecting the future of the NHS, and I hope that that will benefit the hon. Gentleman's constituents.

Question put and agreed to.

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