Acute Hospital Services

Part of Opposition Day — [6th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 3:16 pm on 21st February 2007.

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Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb Shadow Secretary of State for Health 3:16 pm, 21st February 2007

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. He reinforces my point that the description of the process that the Secretary of State gave us in October is very far from the truth about how it in fact operates.

I want to say a few words about how the public are being involved in the process. Does that match the Secretary of State's impressive commitment? The evidence points in precisely the opposite direction. The Health and Social Care Act 2001 imposed a legal duty on health trusts to consult the local population, which was clearly a move in the right direction. The trusts are required to consult about significant changes to service provision and to consult the local authority's overview and scrutiny committee. The committee, in turn, may refer a case to the Secretary of State if it considers that the public involvement process has been inadequate or if it believes that the proposed changes are not in the interests of the local area.

By the end of July 2006, 16 cases had been referred to the Secretary of State, 14 of them in the last year of that period. I understand that the Secretary of State has referred only two of those cases—although I think that she said that one more had been referred in the past week—to the reconfiguration review panel. In only one case did the Secretary of State support the objections of the overview and scrutiny committee—