Health Care Provision (South-East London)
Oral Answers to Questions — Health
11:30 am

Photo of Simon Hughes

Simon Hughes (Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats; Bermondsey and Old Southwark, Liberal Democrat)

What the process is for deciding the future of health care provision in south-east London; and if he will make a statement.

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Jeremy Hunt (The Secretary of State for Health; South West Surrey, Conservative)

The trust special administrator at South London Healthcare NHS Trust will be making recommendations to me on the future of the trust’s services. Those recommendations will inevitably impact on the services provided by other trusts in the south-east London health economy.

Photo of Simon Hughes

Simon Hughes (Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats; Bermondsey and Old Southwark, Liberal Democrat)

When the Secretary of State considers outer south-east London health arrangements, and problems that are not at all of his making, will he bear in mind that all five Members of Parliament for Southwark and Lambeth are clear that plans by King’s Health Partners for a super-trust across Lambeth, Southwark and beyond should be put on hold until we know the implications for inner south-east London of any changes that happen further out?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt (The Secretary of State for Health; South West Surrey, Conservative)

I will certainly bear in mind the right hon. Gentleman’s comments. The decision time scale for the South London Healthcare NHS Trust is very quick as prescribed in the National Health Service Act 2006. I must make a decision on that by 1 February, so the situation will soon become clear.

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Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford, Labour)

The trust special administrator’s report proposes the closure of the full A and E service at Lewisham hospital —which currently sees 115,000 people a year—and asserts that 30% of that department’s work can be transferred to the community. Will the Secretary of State provide evidence of how that can be done, especially considering a cash-strapped NHS and a local authority that is suffering from deep cuts by his Government?

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Jeremy Hunt (The Secretary of State for Health; South West Surrey, Conservative)

I remind the right hon. Lady that the Government have not cut the NHS budget; we have protected the NHS budget. There is an ongoing consultation on the proposal that she mentions. It will finish on 13 December and I hope she will contribute to it. I will receive the recommendations of the trust special administrator at the beginning of January, and I will then make my decision.

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Clive Efford (Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport); Eltham, Labour)

The 2010 Conservative manifesto stated:

“We will stop the forced closure of A and E and maternity wards, so that people have better access to local services,”.

They then closed the accident and emergency department at Sidcup, having promised to save it, and they now plan to close the A and E at Lewisham hospital. Is that not a betrayal of people in south-east London and the NHS?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt (The Secretary of State for Health; South West Surrey, Conservative)

The hon. Gentleman should talk to the shadow Minister on the Opposition Front Bench, Liz Kendall, who said yesterday that she would not automatically oppose all reconfigurations. The coalition Government have introduced four tests, which were not used by the previous Government. Those tests state that we will not impose closures of A and E and maternity units unless there is local clinical support, and evidence that it will benefit local people and improve patient choice. The tests exist to provide precisely the safeguards about which the hon. Gentleman is concerned.