Acute Hospital Services

Part of Opposition Day — [6th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:03 pm on 21st February 2007.

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Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North 4:03 pm, 21st February 2007

It is a pleasure to follow Mr. Mates. I hope to introduce a note of amiability into the debate by agreeing with his comments on Avastin. The issue requires serious investigation and perhaps correction, but one needs the full facts. However, the hon. Gentleman's comments on accident and emergency services are worthy of more corrective comment. In my view, it is crazy to have accident and emergency facilities open 24 hours a day if we do not have accidents and emergencies happening 24 hours a day. Therefore, we should have some form of scheduling. We have already had the comment from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that victims or casualties do not necessarily have to rely on road- borne ambulances. In the same way, we no longer rely on handcarts, as they did in the middle ages.

I returned from Brussels this morning—I was on NATO Parliamentary Assembly business—and I was not sure that I would get a chance to contribute to this debate. I thought that we might have a sensible exchange about patient needs and community care, but for the most part—especially at the beginning of the debate—we have been treated to the standard Supply day swill-bucket that we were used to years ago. Frankly, that does no credit to the health service or the patients who require it, and it does discredit to the Opposition that they cannot marshal their arguments in better form or put them in a more presentable way.

Let me give some examples of what I mean. Mr. Evans, who is not present in the Chamber at the moment, accosted the Secretary of State with the comment, "Were you right then, or are you right now? You can't be both." Well, of course she can. Times change. If someone says one thing three months ago and makes a comment on it today, times have changed in between, so they can be right on both occasions. But perhaps that logic is a bit deep for some of the characters on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Lansley made a similar remark when he kindly referred to the hospital provision on Teesside. I am talking about the general hospital in Hartlepool and the University hospital of North Tees. He reminded the House of the comments of the then Secretary of State for Health and the then Prime Minister—he is still Prime Minister now, I ought to remind the hon. Gentleman. He commented that he did not know whether the report was right or wrong. I can tell him that it is in fact wrong. The comment that was made then is right, but the inference that he drew from it is wrong.

The report from the independent reconfiguration panel states that a third hospital will be provided. I ask the hon. Gentleman to put on his planning hat. If a third hospital is ultimately provided—at the moment the services that will be included in that hospital are still under consideration—as the services there develop and become established, that third hospital will withdraw specialisations from the other two. I hope that that principle is clear. I can see nodding, which is good. As those specialisations are withdrawn, the other two hospitals, in Stockton and Hartlepool, will reduce in size and so take on the character of less acute attentive clinics, which will enable the footprints of both those hospitals to decrease and therefore enable some of the property to be—