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I apologise to the Minister for not declaring an interest in this debate. I should tell her that my constituency is in a curious position because it spans both hospitals. My constituents in and around Faversham—the Swale borough council area—almost all use the Kent and Canterbury hospital referred to by my hon. Friend Mr. Brazier. My constituents in the Maidstone area benefit from the Maidstone hospital.
Having considered the matter as a whole, I am convinced that the proposal is very poor. There are five reasons for that. First, the Kent and Canterbury hospital has just got over a long and bitter fight concerning its future. Secondly, very specific undertakings were given by the Government, and there is a feeling that in sucking urology away from Canterbury, the proposal breaks the spirit, if not the letter, of that agreement. It certainly goes against the spirit of what the Secretary of State told my hon. Friend and me a short while ago.
Thirdly, it is immensely unsettling for staff. Many of the nurses who work in the hospital live in my constituency, and I have had many letters from them about the matter. Fourthly, there is the worry locally that sucking the service away will undermine the critical mass of the Kent and Canterbury hospital.
Finally, if one happens to live in Faversham or in the marshes beyond it, which have no public transport and are on a pretty dodgy road network, it is extremely difficult to get to Maidstone. Quite a lot of elderly and vulnerable people live in that area and, for them, getting to Canterbury is a reasonably viable proposition. Getting all the way over the top of the downs and turning right to go to Maidstone is extraordinarily difficult, and there is no direct public transport link from Faversham to Maidstone. For all those reasons, I entirely support my hon. Friend. I hope that the Minister will see fit to overturn the proposal.