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Urology Services (East Kent)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:52 pm on 20th July 2005.

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Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health) 4:52 pm, 20th July 2005

As I have said, I do not doubt issues of performance and quality of care, but the review took into account a range of factors, in order to identify the best way in the future to provide the best services within that part of the country. That is not to say that no other services will be needed in other parts of the Kent and Medway cancer network area. As I said, patients requiring the radical surgery that we are discussing comprise less than 5 per cent. of the number of urological patients treated at the Kent and Canterbury hospital. After considering a wide range of issues, including performance, it was felt after the review that that hospital would not be included in the future site.

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says about the criteria and the weighting of scores, although he obviously disputes that weighting process. However, that is the conclusion to which the team came. It recommended that Maidstone hospital and Medway Maritime hospital should be the chosen sites. That recommendation was subsequently endorsed by all nine primary care trusts at a meeting in May 2005. It is important to stress that the proposals developed by the cancer network are about how to provide the best possible specialist urological, bladder and prostate cancer services for the future. The proposals are not about the relocation of the entire urological cancer service or about urological services as a whole. Under the proposals, the urology unit at the Kent and Canterbury will still have a key role to play.

I appreciate the concerns raised by the hon. Gentleman about the distance that his constituents and other residents in east Kent will have to travel—that point was also made by the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent. The external review team gave that consideration, but it was also impressed by the views of both hospital staff and service users that patients would be prepared to travel for higher quality specialist care. The result will mean that patients will get better care because the change in provisions represents progress towards national standards.

As the hon. Gentleman will know, the next steps on the matter have been discussed locally by representatives of primary care trusts, the Kent and Medway cancer network and the local authority overview and scrutiny committees. It was agreed at a meeting on 29 June 2005 that some form of further consultation on the proposals would occur. The Kent and Medway cancer network has been considering how that further review should best be implemented, and I understand that the chair of Kent and Medway strategic health authority has spoken to the hon. Member for Canterbury in the last few days.

This week, following legal advice, it has been decided that the PCTs in Kent and Medway will not implement their decisions about future radical bladder and prostate cancer surgery pending the outcome of a further review of the impact of the decision on services at Kent and Canterbury hospital. The hon. Gentleman made a number of points about whether there would be a knock-on effect on other services, which may feel that their future could be jeopardised because of other services moving away to another centre. That change in services is solely about specialised urological cancer surgery, and the east Kent review will consider the impact of the change in the Kent and Canterbury hospital. I hope that that will be an opportunity for the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent, and others, to take part in the process.

The overview and scrutiny committee process is meant to play a part in the issues. In preparing for the debate, I asked some questions about how that had been done. The Kent county council overview and scrutiny committee was contacted before the review was carried out and before the process of the review was agreed to determine how it wanted to be involved and whether at that stage it thought that any consultation was necessary. I am advised that in response it asked only to be kept informed. It was given an opportunity to comment on the criteria, and I understand that no formal response was received. It was given an opportunity to shadow the external review, and I understand that it did not offer any names.

I bring those points to the debate because it is important to have confidence in the overview of such processes and the way in which such discussions are held. It is important that the overview and scrutiny process works well and involves local stakeholders.

I have taken into consideration the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman, and also his concern. I urge him, the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent and their constituents to take part in the further review that the east Kent PCTs will undertake. The details will be announced locally, and I hope that all views will be heard. The PCTs throughout Kent and Medway will, I hope, be reassured that their final decision will deliver the best services.