University Hospital Coventry

Part of Parliament as a Workplace – in the House of Commons at 5:05 pm on 13th June 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 5:05 pm, 13th June 2019

I thank Mr Cunningham and congratulate him on securing this important debate. I thank the other Members who have contributed. I want to start this debate as I try to start all debates in the House when talking about the NHS, by congratulating and thanking the staff who work in the NHS—in particular, given the nature of the debate, the staff who work in the hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire and throughout the west midlands.

The hon. Gentleman made a number of important points that I will try to address. I know that he wrote the Department a letter in May. I will ensure that there is a response to it, but I can tell him now that the response will be that I would be delighted to meet him and the fellow MPs who have signed the letter to discuss its contents and what I am about to say.

The hon. Gentleman raised a number of important concerns regarding the discussions to transfer HPB services from University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust to University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust. HPB services treat patients who have disorders of liver, bile ducts and pancreas, including pancreatic and liver cancer. A large volume of HPB services are delivered in local hospitals, but because of their complex nature and the high cost of care, delivery in conjunction with specialist tertiary centres is often necessary.

As the hon. Gentleman indicated, in October last year, NHS England confirmed that no decision had been made to transfer or close the HPB service in Coventry, despite some concerns that national clinical service specifications were not being met. I understand that he is still concerned about that, but I can confirm that there are currently no plans to transfer HPB cancer services away from University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust. However, NHS England is actively supporting the trust to work alongside University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, to ensure that patients have access to safe, high-quality treatment.

University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust has said that it is proud—rightly so—of the HPB service, which has excellent outcomes and feedback about the quality of healthcare provided, as the hon. Gentleman mentioned. In 2015, the West Midlands Clinical Senate reviewed the three HPB services across the west midlands and recommended combining them across two sites, because they did not meet national requirements.

The “Improving Outcomes” guideline document specifies that a population base of at least 2 million is required to make a compliant service. Currently, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust treats a population of about 1 million. The guidance also specifies that for a population of around 2 million, around 215 pancreatic and liver resections a year would be expected as a proportion of the population size.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the number of operations and resections done by this unit. Between 2013 and 2018, an average of 80 resections a year were performed in University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust. He quoted a rather larger figure, but it was 80 pancreas and liver resections a year. I am happy to discuss with him at the meeting the number he quoted, but it is not one I recognise.

I understand that, over the past two years, teams in both trusts have been discussing how to work together with a view to creating a single point of access and shared multidisciplinary teams for HPB in the local area. Both trusts have agreed that the most complex services should be conducted on University Hospitals Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth site. However, the trusts are yet to agree on an established definition of the most complex surgery. The clinicians from both hospitals who are currently delivering the service will continue to work together to develop this new combined model of care. NHS England will determine the best way to meet patients’ needs collaboratively, based on specialist surgical skills and the skills that are available at each hospital, as well as on the volume and complexity of clinical cases.

I would like to reassure the hon. Gentleman and, indeed, other Members in the Chamber that I recognise that discussions concerning service change are controversial, and this case is no exception. However, I would also like to reassure hon. Members that all service changes are designed to drive up service quality, meeting the specific requirements of local populations and trying to achieve what is best for specialist service users overall. The hon. Gentleman has set out, with great emphasis, the significant challenges that remain, and it is right that the trusts continue to work together to determine the best method to deliver these highly complex services.

The hon. Gentleman and, I hope, all hon. Members know that cancer is a priority for this Government. Survival rates are at a record high. Since 2010, rates of survival from cancer have increased year on year. However, as we know, there is more to do. That is why, last October, the Prime Minister announced a package of measures that will be rolled out across the country with the aim of detecting three quarters of all cancers at an early stage by 2028.

As part of the NHS long-term plan that we announced in January, the Government have outlined how we will achieve the ambition to see 55,000 more people surviving cancer for five years in England each year from 2028. The Department invests £1 billion a year in health research through the National Institute for Health Research. It spent £136 million of that on cancer research in 2017-18, which is an increase of £35 million on 2010-11. The NIHR is funding and supporting a range of research relevant to liver cancer, including a £1.76 million trial of liver resection surgery versus thermal ablation for colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver and early research on specialised magnetic resonance imaging scanning to detect liver cancer that has spread from colorectal cancer. There is much still to be done, but much is being done.