Acute NHS Care: South-west Hertfordshire

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:17 am on 13th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 11:17 am, 13th March 2019

I made the point a moment ago that, because the cost of that greenfield site exceeds the £350 million threshold, it has currently been dropped from the shortlist of options. My right hon. Friend repeats a point that he made during his speech, questioning the criteria; he will know that I have heard what he has said. As he has just informed me, he has made a representation to the Secretary of State about that figure, and I have offered to have a meeting with him so that we can both explore it.

I do not think that, in the relatively short time available, I should get into the debate about the loan criteria, as I said at the beginning. We can have that debate at some other stage if my right hon. Friend wishes to put it forward, but he knows that at the moment the key threshold for capital investment would be the turnover, and therefore options that significantly exceed a £350 million capital cost have been excluded. As part of the option appraisal process, senior leaders and clinicians, as well as expert analysts, were involved in information gathering to put together the option evaluation. He will know that that included demand and capacity analysis based on population, hospital activity and operational planning.

With regard to reviewing that process, my right hon. Friend, as he said, wrote to both NHS England and NHS Improvement concerning the approval process. As he referenced in his speech, he forwarded to them an email from Professor Ron Glatter of the New Hospital Campaign. I understand that in that email, the professor requested a full statement of the outcomes of NHS Improvement’s review of the trust’s acute transformation strategic outline case.

In its answer, NHS Improvement has so far said that it has not started its formal review because the Treasury and the Department have not yet decided whether the proposal represents a scheme that can in principle be supported by central Government. I recognise the strength and effort of the campaigning for the new hospital option and I acknowledge the expert views that have been sought. While it is obviously not right for me to prejudge the answer from NHS Improvement, I know my right hon. Friend will recognise that I and the Department must take a wider view and that decisions made on capital funding must be the same for everyone across the country.

There has clearly been a huge amount of public engagement throughout the process, and I understand that further public engagement is planned for this month. Notwithstanding my right hon. Friend’s scepticism, I understand that the results of those consultations, in terms of the preferred way forward, will be taken to the trust board and the CCG in June 2019.

I recognise my right hon. Friend’s commitment to improving services; I assure him that the information provided by the New Hospital Campaign is being considered and will be considered as part of the review. As I said, it is not appropriate for Ministers to comment on specific decisions but, as he knows, the Government are determined to encourage innovation and to ensure that all patients have access to high-quality services. The updated proposal will clearly help to inform both the Department and the Treasury about capital allocations in the next spending review. I will not rehearse the arguments about the extra £33.9 billion of cash to support the NHS, or the additional capital and the bid we are putting forward in the comprehensive spending review.