Thank you, Mr Hollobone, for calling me to respond to the debate. It is a great pleasure to serve again under your chairmanship.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Karen Lumley for her advocacy on behalf of her constituents and local patients, and indeed for paying tribute herself to the hard-working staff at her local hospital. As she rightly points out, the future of the Redditch hospital has been discussed for far too long and I hope that, during the next few months, we can come to a conclusion that will not only be of benefit to local patients but bring higher-quality care to people in Redditch and the whole of Worcestershire. Any redesign of services must be led by local commissioners and—crucially—must also consider the best interests of local patients; those redesigning services must listen to the voices of local patients.
My hon. Friend rightly outlined in her speech the fact that no hospital or trust operates within a vacuum in the NHS, and she is also right to say that private finance initiative deals in the local area have been problematic and have left a very damaging legacy; that has happened not only in her part of the world but throughout the NHS. We must learn lessons from that in the future. It is distressing and regrettable that bad PFI deals sometimes have an impact on neighbouring hospitals, and it is a position that we, as a Government, have inherited. We will continue to do what we can, by working with trusts with difficult PFI deals, to try to mitigate those difficulties.
My hon. Friend rightly highlighted the fact that decisions about her local trust have an impact on the wider health economy in Worcestershire, and that that broader impact needs to be taken into account by those making decisions about the Alex hospital. When my hon. Friend and I met my hon. Friend Nadhim Zahawi—my hon. Friend Sajid Javid was unable to attend that meeting—the point was made clearly that many hospitals in the wider health economy of Worcestershire have natural links with Birmingham. That must be taken into account when services are redesigned for the benefit of patients.
Increasingly, clinical evidence is stacking up that some specialist clinical services need to be run from specialist centres, because those centres produce much better outcomes for patients, so the link to the major population centre for the surrounding counties should be taken into account. As I say, we need specialist centres of excellence for the benefit of patients.
My hon. Friend the Member for Redditch made the point that the Alex hospital has a historical legacy of difficulties, with big, intermittent deficits at the local trust. There have been commendable attempts to deal with those difficulties, but there has been a difficult situation for a number of years. Clearly, we want to see long-term stability for Redditch, for the local trust more broadly and for the local health care economy. Key to achieving those things is having high-quality medical personnel working in the hospital, and the ability to retain and recruit high-quality consultants.