[Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair] — Backbench Business — Children’s Cardiac Surgery (Glenfield)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:50 pm on 22nd October 2012.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Opposition Whip (Commons) 4:50 pm, 22nd October 2012

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone.

I pay tribute to Sir Edward Garnier for securing this debate, and I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for allowing us to hold it this afternoon.

The hon. and learned Gentleman, who is one of my parliamentary neighbours, spoke with typical eloquence, as is his wont, and I for one am disappointed that he no longer graces the Government Front Bench. The Front Bench’s loss is the Back Bench’s gain, and I thought that he spoke extremely well. I apologise in advance if I echo many of his points, but that indicates the cross-party support for the campaign. Although we are perhaps blessed in not having any Liberal Members in the east midlands, I am sure that, if we did, they, too, would support the campaign.

As I am sure that the Minister, who represents an east midlands seat, is aware, this issue has caused considerable concern, not only in my Leicester South constituency but across the east midlands region. It is no surprise to those of us who have been involved in the campaign that the e-petition has hit 100,000 signatures, and I pay tribute to Adam Tansey, the father of Albert Tansey, who set up the e-petition.

There has been widespread opposition to the proposals from the Safe and Sustainable review and how they affect Leicester. The review recommended the closing of the children’s heart unit and the associated moving of Leicester’s world-class extracorporeal membrane oxygenation service to Birmingham. Local people have campaigned vigorously against the proposal, and I pay particular tribute to Ms Robyn Lotto—a constituent of mine who has magnificently led much of the local campaigning in recent weeks. We should also pay tribute to Glenfield’s staff, who are very concerned, as the hon. and learned Gentleman indicated when he read out the circular that we were all sent.

Many organisations in Leicester and beyond have spoken out. The vice-chancellor of Leicester university, Sir Bob Burgess, said:

“Glenfield is a leading international heart hospital where excellent clinical care takes place within a context of internationally significant research. I would therefore ask that the proposal to move the Glenfield services be reconsidered and this valuable facility retained for people of our region.”

The Bishop of Leicester, who I see observing us, said:

“It is not…clear that the movement to Birmingham will be straight forward… In fact I fear that the movement of these services will be harmful to the nation as a whole”.

As I have mentioned, politicians from all parties have come together on this campaign. Politicians on the Labour-dominated Leicester city council are working alongside politicians on the Conservative-dominated Leicestershire county council and on what I assume is the Conservative-dominated Lincolnshire county council, and they have all expressed their concern.

MPs on both sides of the Chamber are speaking up, and, as the hon. and learned Gentleman did, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Liz Kendall, who in many ways has spearheaded the campaign from our side with her usual pizzazz, and to Nicky Morgan, who cannot speak in this debate because she is a Government Whip—fortunately for me, Opposition Whips can speak—but who I am sure would speak if parliamentary convention allowed.

I am, of course, pleased that the Secretary of State for Health has today announced that the independent committee will conduct a full review and report back at the end of February next year. Notwithstanding that welcome announcement, I want to make a number of points on which I hope the Minister can provide clarification.

On demand and capacity—I appreciate some of these points might be for the review committee, but it is important to get them on the record—genuine questions have been raised about the assumptions on demand and the capacity on offer at Birmingham that the joint committee of primary care trusts used. As I understand it, the national projections used by the review assume that demand will be flat, yet the most up-to-date data show demand increasing, because birth rates in the east midlands and west midlands are well above national averages. The projections of population trends used by the review team were based on data from 2006-07. Using those data would suggest a relatively stable work load rising to 3,990 cases in 2025, but, if the latest data on population expectations from the Office for National Statistics are used, the projected rise in surgical case loads hits 5,422 in 2025. Questions have also been raised about the likely patient flows, with clinicians suggesting that Sheffield and Doncaster have indicated a preference for Birmingham rather than Newcastle.

Given that extra surgery work, the movement of the ECMO provision, the increased population projections for the whole midlands and the worries about increased patient flows from south Yorkshire, I would be grateful to the Minister if she let us know whether the Department is confident that Birmingham has the capacity to meet what is clearly set to be considerably increased demand.