I congratulate Miss Widdecombe on securing this debate on the proposed transfer of services from Maidstone hospital to Tunbridge Wells. Before I turn to the specific issues that she raised, I should like to take this opportunity to recognise the work across the whole of Kent in delivering good-quality services and to pay tribute to all the staff who are dedicated to that process. I am sure that she would join me in that.
All Members rightly attach the highest importance to developments in the NHS in their constituencies. It is important that local people are able to have local access to high-quality health services for users of orthopaedic and maternity services, as well as several other services that the right hon. Lady mentioned. As she knows, our policy is one of devolution to give local communities a real opportunity to plan and to develop health services according to their needs and demands. We have backed that up with significant additional funding. Over 2003–04 to 2007–08, expenditure on the NHS in England will increase on average by more than 7 per cent. a year over and above inflation—an increase of £34 billion.
The majority of that funding has been made direct to primary care trusts. In that way, we are putting resources in the hands of front-line NHS staff alongside their responsibilities for developing and running services. In the right hon. Lady's constituency, Maidstone Weald PCT will receive an increase in its revenue allocation of £36.4 million between 2003–04 and 2005–6. That represents a cash increase of 28.7 per cent.
The right hon. Lady raised several concerns, some of which touched on the proposed transfer of women's and children's services from Maidstone to Tunbridge Wells. I stress that those remain proposals and that no firm decision has been made.
The right hon. Lady concentrated most of her remarks on the trauma services and linked orthopaedic services. I can give her assurances on some of the matters on which she seeks them. I understand that she is a local Member concerned about what is happening in her patch. She graphically expressed her anxiety about the matter, and I understand that, but she need not worry about a unique voice, because many of us would say that she is a unique voice. I am sure that she is a unique voice on behalf of her constituency.
The joint Maidstone and Tunbridge trust has stressed throughout the discussions that the area and the people that it serves will always need two acute district hospitals. I emphasise the word "acute" because the right hon. Lady is worried that one will become totally elective. That is not the trust's intention: there will be one hospital in Maidstone and another in Tunbridge Wells, and they will work together in a complementary way. I understand that that can sometimes cause anxieties, and I am familiar with the situation from elsewhere, not least my constituency.