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John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington): In our area we almost feel consultatively abused at present—we have been reviewed and consulted so often. The test of any

13 Mar 2002 : Column 996

review or consultation is whether anyone is listening. In relation to the latest review, the community is unanimous—across the political spectrum of all the MPs representing the area—in opposing the move. I hope that this time someone will actually listen.

Ms Blears: My hon. Friend makes an important point. No matter how good the consultation process, the proof of its success is that people not only listen but act on the points made by local communities. In this review, the issues were closely investigated and that will continue—especially as regards people's concerns about access to services. In the past such concerns have not always weighed as heavily as the clinical issues. My hon. Friend is right.

Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge): The hon. Lady referred to the importance of these services to local communities. Does not she consider that that is one of the paramount reasons for retaining such services in those communities?

Ms Blears: As I said to the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood earlier, decisions about the reconfiguration of services are always beset with tension. We have to try to achieve the right balance between specialisation—to provide an excellent quality of service—and access for people close to their homes.

We have to listen to all the parties involved to ensure that people have the high quality services that they rightly demand and expect and that those services are accessible to as many local people as possible. That balance is difficult to find but we should not shy away from entering the debate.

The model being developed for cancer services is the right one. It brings together diagnosis, surgical treatment and oncology and has been widely endorsed in the interim report. I understand the concerns of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood about the future of the cancer centre, and I shall ensure that the consultation is rigorous and takes into account the views of local people in deciding the way forward for those services that are so important to the constituents of all the hon. Members who have spoken this evening.

Question put and agreed to.

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