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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 22nd January 2013.

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Photo of Heidi Alexander Heidi Alexander Labour, Lewisham East 9:30 am, 22nd January 2013

I do not know whether the trust special administrator has deliberately manipulated figures, but the way that the figures have been presented looks quite suspicious.

The plans are completely unjustified. There has been much talk in recent weeks of the need for things to do what it says on the tin. The metaphorical tin with respect to the recommendations of the trust special administrator presumably says it will resolve the financial problems of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust and put the health economy in south-east London on a stable footing. I do not think the proposals before us do that. It will be necessary to spend £195 million on a one-off basis to make changes at hospitals in south London, to deal with the displaced demand for A and E and maternity care that will result from the closure of services at Lewisham. It is not clear to me where that money is coming from: which Department of Health budget is it to come from? Has the Treasury approved that non-recurrent expenditure? If it has not approved the required capital outlay, the plans fall apart. Perhaps the Minister can deal with that point.

The changes to the Lewisham site would involve demolition of the recently refurbished A and E, so that the land could be sold. Long after the A and E was knocked down, the hospital would still be paying £400,000 a year in loan repayments for the £12 million it borrowed to make the improvements. That is a bit like someone taking out a loan to do up their kitchen and knocking down that part of the house while still paying money back to the bank.

Another big question relates to the continuing year in, year out costs of the changes. The possibility of a double maternity shift at King’s and St Thomas’s, which I have mentioned, is just one example, and would surely add hugely to the bill. How much would it cost to implement a community-based care strategy to reduce the need for hospital services? Where is the money coming from?

If the proposed changes to A and E and maternity care in south-east London cannot be justified financially, do not result in better health outcomes and are unfair and unwanted, why on earth are we here to debate them today? The Government have consistently said that changes will not be made unless four specific tests are met, as my right hon. Friend Bob Stewart have mentioned. In the present case, the tests are not met. The chair of the local commissioning group is opposed to the changes, as are virtually all Lewisham GPs. The process should result in strengthened patient and public involvement, but the current process has resulted in strengthened disillusionment among the public, and little else. Proposals should be based on a sound clinical evidence base—but the evidence base in the present case is virtually non-existent. It is also stated that the Government will not make changes to such major services unless doing so will strengthen and improve patient choice; the special administrator’s own report recognises that the proposals will result in a weakening of patient choice.

As I said earlier, the proposals are unwanted, unfair, unsafe and unjustified. Last week the NHS Commissioning Board announced a review of emergency care, to be led by the NHS medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh. I welcome that review, but what is the point of it if the Government are just going to push ahead with their proposals in south London? The chaotic handling of the process in Lewisham cannot be right. It rides roughshod over the wishes of the community and local clinicians. For the life of me, I cannot see how it is in the best interests of my constituents or the people of south London. I urge the Minister to reject these rushed and ill-conceived plans and to do as her party’s manifesto says:

“stop the forced closure of A and E and maternity wards, so that people have better access to local services”.

I am not asking for better access; I am just asking for the access that currently exists for people in Lewisham to be maintained.