Neuromuscular Services (North-West)

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 26th April 2011.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) 2:30 pm, 26th April 2011

What progress the NHS North West Specialised Commissioning Group has made in reviewing neuromuscular services in the region; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of John Leech John Leech Liberal Democrat, Manchester, Withington

What progress the NHS North West Specialised Commissioning Group has made in reviewing neuromuscular services in the region; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

I understand that the North West Specialist Commissioning Group received a report from its neuromuscular services review group at the end of March, and that it has since circulated it to all primary care trust chief executives with a request that it is shared with board members and GP commissioning consortia leads.

Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

The north-west has not seen the investment in extra services, such as transitional care and extra care advisers, that the report recommends, and now the Government’s proposed reforms are causing turmoil in specialised commissioning and real worries about how the commissioning of tertiary services will work in future, so will Health Ministers issue guidance to commissioners to ensure that the investment is made to cover those critical gaps in the north-west, and that emergency admissions are avoided?

Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, but I reject her assertion that the changes to the NHS—the modernisation of the NHS—have thrown the process into difficulty. Clearly, she feels that there is a problem in the first place. As I am sure she will agree, however, it will be down to the commissioning of the GP consortia and the primary care trusts to decide the best way to provide services in the light of all the information that they have. I understand that the commissioners will feed back to the specialised commissioning group on how they will deal with the recommendations.

Photo of John Leech John Leech Liberal Democrat, Manchester, Withington

The report highlighted that, for an investment of less than £30,000, Manchester primary care trust could ensure that all muscular dystrophy sufferers, including my constituent Ben Dale, have access to specialist care adviser support, saving an estimated £5 million in hospital admissions costs. Does the Minister agree that that investment would be excellent value for money, given that it would help my constituent Ben to live a more fulfilling life and save money for the NHS?

Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The hon. Gentleman specifically mentions a constituent of his, and I have every sympathy with people coping with muscle-wasting diseases, and indeed with their families. The burden can be quite considerable. The multidisciplinary group that examined services throughout the north-west deserves our thanks for its work, but the fact is that it is for NHS commissioners, PCTs and the emerging GP-led consortia to consider the evidence that they have. Indeed, if money can be saved by commissioning services in a different way, so they should be, but that decision should be taken locally.