I will try to bring the debate back to the issue of opt-out. I will also be brief, because we have suffered long rambling speeches from Conservative Members. The Conservative party has tried to get as many of its Members as possible to speak to talk about specific issues that affect their constituencies.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe), I have received hundreds of representations from my constituents opposing the proposals for opt-out. I have not received one letter in favour. That is particularly significant, because the world-famous Christie hospital is in my constituency. Local people are very proud of that hospital and they have raised thousands of pounds for it. I strongly believe that Christie hospital is at the top of the list of hospitals which the Government want to see opt-out as soon as the Bill becomes an Act.
We must consider what has been happening to the opt-out proposals during the Bill's passage through the House, and in that context I want to refer to Christie hospital. The management of Christie, at a very early stage, expressed an interest in opting out. However, the management only consulted some consultants in the hospital.
The Secretary of State said tonight that he does not believe that the consultants should be the sole custodians of views about whether a hospital should opt out and that there should be more consultations with staff. In Christie, no other staff were consulted. Similarly, the local community and local representatives such as the community health council were not consulted. The issue was not even drawn to the attention of South Manchester health authority because the authority did not believe that it should have a say in whether the hospital should have expressed an interest.
It is absolutely clear that hospitals are seeking opt-out status because of the financial crisis in many health authorities. The financial crisis facing south Manchester health authority is the reason why Christie hospital is expressing an interest in opting out.
The Secretary of State recently crept into south Manchester to look at what was going on. The headlines in the local paper stated that all that the people of south Manchester ever did was moan about the state of the health service. Well, they have plenty to moan about. In the last few years, we have had ward closure after ward closure; waiting lists have been growing and staff have not
been recruited because of lack of money. Now, Christie hospital has admitted for the first time that it cannot open a crucial ward because of lack of money. As the Secretary of State has said, the unit manager of the Christie hospital is the local enthusiast—he is the only local enthusiast—who has put forward proposals for opting out. He admitted in an article in the local health paper that
a Unit such as Christie with potential for growth and development of cancer services must recognise that for the foreseeable future there will be no growth monies available from Regional funds. From April 1990 the budget of the North West Region begins to reduce and this will inevitably mean that already hard pressed district Health Authorities"—
such as south Manchester—
will encounter further financial problems".
That is why the hospital is going down the road of opting out.
The consultants are fed up with the lack of resources. They are prepared to go along with the proposals as long as they believe—as I do—that the first hospitals to opt out will be stuffed full of money by the Government to show that such hospitals can be successful. I believe that the Government will go forward to the next general election on that basis.
For its "consultation", the management has produced a glossy magazine—