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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 have no reason to disbelieve what the right hon. Lady says, but even more important is returning the decision to the people in the health service who are now meant to be leading it—the GP commissioners and others. That is what all of us, in different ways, believe needs to be done. She made an argument for the issue being London-wide, and that of course is the context, but the practicalities of travel and transport, whether buses, cabs, cars and trains, are such that south-east London works as a segment for health service use in a way that does not really cross over into other parts of London, other than to King’s. The only knock-on bits are the small amount of crossover to the London hospitals for specialist reasons, and some to King’s because it is so near—technically, it is south-east London, but it is in Lambeth.

Secondly, the precedent would be a bad one to set for those parts of the NHS that have been financially well managed, compared with parts that have been badly managed. Lewisham has been relatively well managed, being very nearly in balance. We rely on trusts to do their job locally and on people to manage local trusts, so we have to support those who do that job well and responsibly.

My last point is probably the most important. I have been to Lewisham A and E and visited patients there privately. It and the maternity services have developed a reputation for good clinical care of all who attend it. That was not the case some years ago, but it has been worked on, and not only physically. It has become a university teaching hospital, as well as being a local general hospital, and it has good community links—the point made by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford in her intervention. It has also built up a good reputation for integrating acute care, hospital-centred care, with community provision.

The Secretary of State could take the clinically easy decision to follow the trust administrator’s recommendation, saying, “This is what has been recommended, therefore I am following what I have been told”, but I hope that he realises the greater benefits to the local community and to the wider health economy and service of south-east London, as well as to the Government if they are seen to be listening to the people and to the GPs more than to the trust special administrator. I understand why the trust special administrator takes a hard line, because he is a health economist and his interest is finance. The Health Secretary, however, has a different job, which is to be responsible for the NHS in England, and that means making responsible decisions to secure a good NHS in all parts of south London and elsewhere.