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11.25 am

Mr. Keith Darvill (Upminster): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Colman) on securing this important debate. I should like to confine my remarks to two aspects of the report: chapter 11 on Harold Wood and Oldchurch hospitals, and chapter 6 on primary care.

Harold Wood hospital is in my constituency, and Oldchurch hospital is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mrs. Gordon).Both hospitals come under the Barking and Havering

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health authority and are in the London borough of Havering. The Turnberg report made a firm recommendation. On page 71, it states:


    "We endorse the single site Oldchurch area proposal as optimal on the grounds of access to a large proportion of the most deprived population and the strong support from the local authorities and GPs."

Those words, brief as they are, have been taken wrongly by some, including the BBC, to mean the closure of Harold Wood hospital, but that is not the case. I have had numerous discussions with the executives of the Havering hospitals trust, the BHB trust, the area health authority and the regional health authority about the implementation and recommendations of the report and its knock-on effect on Harold Wood hospital. It will undoubtedly mean different health services at Harold Wood, but it does not mean closure.

I could go on at length about the services that are planned and will be delivered in the future at Harold Wood, but that can wait for a more appropriate time, especially in view of the imminent launch of the local consultation process on the future of hospital services in the area. The indications are that positive proposals will be forthcoming, which will be welcomed by my constituents.

Ms Linda Perham (Ilford, North): As my hon. Friend knows, Members from north-east London have worked well on local hospital issues, but the report acknowledged that its recommendation for Oldchurch will have an impact on King George's hospital in Ilford, which most of my constituents use. Will he join me in urging the Minister to consider the impact on my local services and on services in the whole of the north-east London area?

Mr. Darvill: I am pleased to urge the Minister to consider the impact on hospitals in the surrounding areas.

Health care services will be fit for the new millennium under the proposed package of measures. It will ensure the maximum use of facilities developed through limited investment over the past 10 years. Despite the scare stories that have emanated from some quarters--mainly from our political opponents in the lead-up to the local elections--my main concern is about the time it will take to implement the report's recommendations. The proposals referred to in the report have been developed locally. They are exciting and will provide a new general hospital at Oldchurch close to the existing hospital and just four miles from Harold Wood. The new hospital will be built on land currently owned by the London borough of Havering, which will be exchanged for area health authority land.

After the new hospital has been built and services have decamped from the old hospital to the new, the old hospital will be demolished, leaving Havering council free to build its long-awaited sports stadium. A new hospital close to a public sports facility would enable the link between healthy living and sports injuries facilities to become more than a vision; it would become a reality. Such public facilities, developed in partnership across agencies, would be welcome.

I am concerned about procrastination and about delay which, unfortunately, has been the hallmark of past Administrations. There has been some investment, but it has been piecemeal, and there does not appear to have

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been a coherent strategy, which has understandably led to public scepticism and frustration. Procrastination and delay in implementing necessary changes have left health services deteriorating, which has affected the constituents of my hon. Friends the Members for Barking (Ms Hodge) and for Dagenham (Ms Church) especially harshly. I fear that further years of delay will fail the populations further, so I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to ensure that this recommendation is high on the list of priorities.

There is a popular misunderstanding about outer east London, which is considered to be a leafy suburb without deprivation. That is not the case, and the area is often overlooked because of that misconception. Recent reports commissioned by the area health authority and the local authorities contain ample evidence of serious health needs that must be addressed.

My constituents and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Barking and for Dagenham need and deserve the new facility, which will provide improved services closer to the centre of population that it would serve. Further delay would do our constituents a disservice; a quick advance would enable the partnership that has developed between the area health authorities, the hospital trusts, the London boroughs, the community health council and Members of Parliament to flourish, in marked and notable contrast to years gone by.

Lack of investment and failure to recognise the area's health needs, especially the almost crisis position of primary care, are evidenced by the Turnberg report, which states on page 33:


The table on page 36 shows the acuteness of the problem in east London: only 8 per cent. of premises in the Barking and Havering health authority area are above the minimum standard, and across east London generally, only 20 per cent. are above the minimum standard.

There is a considerable shortage of GPs: the area health authority is 50 short, which has a knock-on effect. GPs who practise in the area have to work under difficult circumstances with long patient lists, crowded surgeries and heavy demands. That has a contributory effect on the average demand on accident and emergency access services.

For those reasons, I welcome the report's recommendations in chapter 6, paragraph 23, especially paragraph 23.6, which states:


In view of that, I invite my hon. Friend the Minister to comment on the timetable for the implementation of those recommendations, for only when they are implemented will we, as politicians who have been elected to improve the health service, have honoured our pledges.

I welcome the debate and the report, which was ordered speedily after the general election and delivered promptly by the independent panel. Its recommendations have been

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widely welcomed, and we have to implement them with urgency of purpose, so that the people of London have their health services improved and restored.

11.34 am

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Colman) for giving us the opportunity to comment on the Turnberg report and to make observations on the future of the health service in London, especially hospital services.

I represent a constituency on the edge of Greater London. Mount Vernon hospital, about which I initiated an Adjournment debate on Friday 6 March, is located there. Earlier this year, the Minister of State, Department of Health was good enough to receive a deputation which I took to the Department to discuss its future. On Friday 29 May, Hillingdon health authority produced a consultation document, "A Contract With Local People", which makes drastic recommendations about Mount Vernon hospital and other hospital services, especially Hillingdon hospital in the north of Hillingdon borough.

I fear that the Turnberg report and the Government's plans for the future of the health service in London do not take sufficient note of hospitals such as Mount Vernon, which, historically, have drawn patients from well beyond the Greater London area. I must repeat what I said on 6 March: Mount Vernon is the largest cancer centre in the south-east on a single site. More important, it is probably the premier cancer treatment location in the south of England, if not the country, and combines fantastic clinical facilities for the treatment of cancer with research facilities of international repute, especially the Gray laboratory and the Marie Curie centre.

Furthermore, there is an outstanding hospice, Michael Sobel house, and a scanner centre, the Paul Strickland centre, which have been built up largely by private contributions from generous people over many years. Another charity, the Reconstruction of Appearance and Function Trust, is at Mount Vernon, as is the Cleft Lip and Palate Association. Mount Vernon is a genuine centre of outstanding excellence, but such a cancer centre cannot stand on its own: it has to have a range of supportive services in general medicine, surgery and many other disciplines. They are being put at risk by wide-ranging reviews undertaken for reasons of supposed rationalisation and supposed better organisation of services in the area; but the conclusions are highly questionable and would be prejudicial to the long-term future of the hospital. Indeed, they would call into question its viability beyond the next 10 years or so.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), from the Liberal Democrat Benches, and the hon. Member for Putney suggested that the health service in London would be better administered by the Greater London authority than by the single health authority for the capital proposed by Her Majesty's Government. I do not understand how the Greater London authority could have the range of competence and the professional expertise to run London's health service. How it would administer the budget is unclear to me.

The suggestion of the hon. Members for Southwark, North and Bermondsey and for Putney is contrary to the proposals of Her Majesty's Government for the future governance of London. The proposals are directed at the strategic development of the capital in terms of industry

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and commerce, transport, strategic planning and so on. They have nothing to do with the health service, and it would be a retrograde step if Her Majesty's Government took their advice. It would not, as they somewhat disingenuously suppose, constitute an advance towards democratic control of the health service.


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