Lennard Hospital, Bromley(Closure)

Part of Petition – in the House of Commons at 12:48 pm on 22 December 1983.

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Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon 12:48, 22 December 1983

I am pleased that we heard this morning from my hon. Friend the Member for Ravensbourne (Mr. Hunt) and that my hon. Friend the Member for Chiselhurst (Mr. Sims) was able to make his voice heard on behalf of his constituents. Although they do not have a hospital, they have an interest in the hospitals in the Bromley area. My hon. Friend the Member for Ravensbourne made a forceful case, and I know that there is considerable local feeling about the Lennard hospital. That depth of feeling has been reflected in the robust way in which my hon. Friend has brought the case to the notice of the DHSS and discussed it with Ministers. I hope that what I can say in the brief time available to me will provide some reassurance to him, even if I am not able to go in great detail into the issues of RAWP.

All hon. Members would agree that the Bromley health authority has a difficult task, and we should collectively pay tribute to the chairman and members for the way in which it has faced up to it. I appreciate that my hon. Friends are not criticising directly any individual on the authority, and I am glad that both my hon. Friends assent to that assertion.

The decisions made on 20 September were caused by the urgent need to bring the authority's expenditure level within its cash limit. Mr. Deputy Speaker, as you know from listening to many other Adjournment debates—they normally occur not when daylight is coming into the Chamber but much later, at night—I have said that temporary closures can be made because of the urgent need to bring the authority's level of spending within its cash limit. The Department of Health and Social Security accepts that point.

My Department's guidance to health authorities such as Bromley clearly stresses that, where there is any prospect of temporary closures becoming permanent, consultations under the established procedures must occur as quickly as possible. The Bromley health authority proposes that all the temporary closures on which it has recently decided should become permanent. In accordance with our strict guidance, it proposes in January next year—only a couple of weeks' time — to issue a consultation document that fully explains its proposals and the reasons behind them.

I was interested in the report by my hon. Friend the Member for Ravensbourne on the outcome of the community health council's meeting on Monday. I was not aware of that meeting or what it decided. We may hear more at a later stage in writing about what occurred at that meeting. I was pleased also to hear what he said about his deep anxiety, and long-term views, which I know have been reflected in correspondence with my Department, about the pattern of care within the Bromley area as a whole. I urge him to make those views known forcefully, first to the health authority as the local body having the job of deciding the pattern of long-term action.