We have not been able to agree to the region's proposal for closure. A decision will not be made until we are satisfied that any revised proposals bring clear benefits to patients.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's welcome assurance that the children's rheumatological unit will not be broken up at Wrightington hospital. Will he give a further assurance that if the feasibility study into transferring that unit to, for example, the Royal Preston hospital is not a success, the obvious answer will be to retain a ward with a small number of beds at Wrightington hospital? Does he recognise how urgent the matter is, bearing in mind the time that it has taken to reach a decision, and the fact that people do not know what the future holds?
For the avoidance of doubt, I should not want my hon. Friend to think that I had said anything other than what I have just said, which will be recorded in Hansard. That is the extent of my assurances. The regional health authority, the district health authority and the Department will consider carefully all proposals for the welfare of the children who are now being cared for in that ward in that hospital.
Will my hon. Friend recall that the interest in the future of the Wrightington ward is wider than the area immediately around Wrightington and the north-west because its distinction attracts children from other parts of the country? Will he bear in mind that it is undesirable to break up the successful team there, which is producing good, positive results?
I am aware of the excellent care that that ward has given to one of my hon. Friend's constituents. I shall certainly bear in mind everything that he has to say when making the difficult decisions that need to be taken about the future welfare of the children cared for there.