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[Dr William McCrea in the Chair] — Hospital Services (South London)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:59 am on 22nd January 2013.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats 9:59 am, 22nd January 2013

I do not dispute that. I am not as close to the process as the hon. Gentleman. I did not follow those issues as closely, because the process did not directly affect my borough, although it directly affected his. I have taken advice from someone who has been involved over the years at Lewisham hospital and in NHS management, and the history of financial poor management in the South London Healthcare NHS Trust stretches back over 10 years. The advice I have received is that poor management should have been gripped seven or eight years ago, but the problems escalated. We are in our present position because of a legacy of poor decisions made over effectively a decade. Things might have been rescued by the Government at the beginning of this Parliament, but they clearly were not and we are left in our present position.

I have a few comments, and I do not want to take time from other colleagues who have a direct interest. I responded to the consultation to make clear the interests of my constituents. The Secretary of State invited those of us with an interest to see him, and we are grateful for that invitation, which we used, I hope, to put our case effectively. The right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham and I, and those MPs whose constituents use King’s, have written to the Secretary of State further to that meeting to make clear our concerns about the impact on King’s of any closure of Lewisham A and E, irrespective of the change in maternity services.

There is an alternative approach, which I commend to the Secretary of State. I hope he understands the benefit of going down the alternative route, rather than following the trust special administrator’s recommendations. The alternative, which we explored at our meeting and which I do not believe was adequately answered by the trust special administrator or his colleagues, is that five of the six recommendations—excluding recommendation 5 on the site configuration—leave open the option of amalgamating NHS management between Lewisham and Greenwich. NHS management could then be allowed to work out the best configuration of services across the two boroughs in consultation with, and with the confidence of, the local authorities in question, which now have direct responsibility through health and wellbeing boards under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and in conjunction with GPs to seek GP commissioning endorsement and support. I hope there would be much more public support than for the present proposal, as is understandable.

I hope that the Secretary of State will find that to be an appropriate solution. It may have a small financial disadvantage over the present proposals but, as the hon. Member for Lewisham East said in her speech and as she and her colleagues from Lewisham have made clear in their letters to the Secretary of State, the TSA’s figures show a financial gap of only £1.7 million from a break-even position if recommendation 5 were not to be followed, compared with a financial gap of £75.6 million if the recommendations were followed. There are knock-on effects, but we seem to be talking about a sufficiently small amount of money, with little risk of any other financially adverse impact, and if people are motivated to reach a conclusion quickly, that must be a much more satisfactory way of proceeding and much more in line with the four tests set out.