Calderdale Royal Hospital

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:36 pm on 12 December 2013.

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Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 4:36, 12 December 2013

I ask the hon. Lady to let me develop my points, because I have not even begun to respond to her speech. I shall give way, if time allows, a little later.

Before I address the particulars of this debate, may I touch on the Government’s policy on changes to services in general? I realise that the hon. Lady may say that this is what I was going to say, but it is important to understand the principles behind reconfiguration policy. This Government are clear that the design of front-line health services, including A and E, is a matter for the local NHS. That is for good reason, because those local leaders, working closely with local democratic representatives, local government and the public they serve, can come to better conclusions about the services for their area than a Minister sitting in Whitehall trying to decide policy for the whole country, which is a very old-fashioned model of how to do these things.

The NHS has a responsibility to ensure that people have access to the best and safest health care possible. That means planning ahead and looking at sustainability as well as safety in NHS health care provision. No party can escape the challenge of providing sustainable services, and I do not think that challenge is any different for the Labour Front-Bench team from how it is for the Government. The Labour party made these points often when it was in government.

Reconfiguration is about modernising delivery of care and ensuring that we have the facilities to improve patient outcomes, develop services closer to home and, most importantly, save lives. I listened carefully to the hon. Lady’s arguments about her own local area, but if we look at an area in London, as I represent a London seat, we will see that exactly the same arguments were made against centralising stroke care, which was centralised in eight hyper-acute stroke units. They are now providing 24/7 acute stroke care. Stroke mortality is now 20% lower in London than the rest of UK, and survivors are experiencing a better quality of life.

I gave that example to illustrate the fact that we must be wary of some of the arguments against reconfiguration. I am quite clear that in London something that was opposed for some of the reasons the hon. Lady has touched on in her speech is now saving lives for my constituents and others. I want to ensure that that point is at least underlined.

We must allow the local NHS continually to challenge the status quo. I do not accept the hon. Lady’s argument, which, as I understand it, is that nothing should ever change. How, in a modern and ever-changing world, can she advance the argument that nothing should ever change and that it would be wrong of her clinicians even to look at the case for change?