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A search of the Department of Health’s database revealed that 131 items of correspondence, and five parliamentary questions relating to the reorganisation of urgent care were received in the past six months. In addition, I have received three requests to meet MPs on this subject.
Wycombe hospital is currently going through a consultation on a change to urgent care services, and it is doing so in the context of the betrayal felt after “Shaping Health Services” in 2004, which removed our accident and emergency department. I would like to escape this cycle through mutuality. What is the Government’s position on mutuality? Will the Minister join my call for directly owned community health services?
The Government have supported the right to request, which has enabled 45 staff-led social enterprises to be established. This policy has supported approximately 25,000 staff into social enterprises, with contracts of roughly £900 million. NHS staff have been assisted by a wide-ranging programme of support from the Department.
Has not the Government’s so-called moratorium on the reconfiguration of services put back improvements to urgent care by several years? The Minister inherited perfectly coherent plans for every region in England under the auspices of Lord Darzi’s next-stage review. How many lives have been lost and how much money has been wasted by the tearing up of those plans?
I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong. It is not holding back the national health service; it is moving it forward with things such as the establishment of the 111 service and the reconfiguration proposals, which are based on the four tests that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State introduced in May last year. That not only links reconfiguration to the needs of the local health economy but takes into account the wishes and needs of the local community and medical staff.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the improved delivery of urgent care right across the health service is one of the great challenges facing the new commissioning structure and one of the great opportunities to deliver more integrated services that deliver better value and better quality to patients?
I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend; speaking with the authority of the Chair of the Health Committee, he is absolutely right. It is the way forward to drive improvements in service, raise standards and ensure that there is high-class, quality care at an urgent care level and across the acute sector.