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The Humble Petition of Cleft Lip and/or Palate NHS Patients and their Parents, Guardians, Carers, Grandparents, Relatives and Supporters sheweth
That having not received clear openness and transparency during the implementation of the Clinical Standards Advisory Group recommendations on Cleft Lip and Palate Services, and being denied fair and reasonable representation in the decision making process,
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House will request the Secretary of State for Health to initiate a full and independent quality audit of all current Cleft Lip and Palate Units before the designation of new centres. Your Petitioners also pray that your Honourable House will urge the Secretary of State for Health to reconsider the number of unit closures necessary in order to provide the new service without further unnecessary hardship for patients and their families.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, etc.
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Today, the public consultation period for the proposals on modernising specialist acute hospital services in west London put forward by Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster health authority on behalf of the West London Partnership Forum of four health authorities in west London comes to an end.
This speech is my submission not only to Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster health authority but to Parliament and the country on behalf of my constituents, and on behalf of the thousands throughout the United Kingdom and overseas who are appalled by the planned closure of Harefield hospital. They have expressed by letter, phone, fax, e-mail, petition and their presence at the five public consultation meetings in the Hillingdon borough their rightful indignation about what is proposed.
I have consistently sought to put the truth before the public, not only in my Adjournment debate of 2 December 1998 but in the summer Adjournment debate of 28 July 2000, in numerous parliamentary questions, in meetings with Ministers, letters to Ministers and in contributions at every consultation meeting held in the Hillingdon borough.
There has been little controversy over the proposals for specialist paediatric and renal hospital services in west London, but that a supposedly responsible national health service forum should propose the closure of Harefield hospital, the most famous cardiothoracic hospital in Britain, without even putting forward its modernisation and development as an option for consultation, has caused outrage.
Harefield has undertaken more transplants--more than 2,000--than any other cardiothoracic hospital in the world. Under the leadership of Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub, voted by the nation's television viewers as man of the year only a few weeks ago, its reputation for excellence and total devotion to patient care is unsurpassed anywhere. This is something that the general public understand. They accord the highest esteem to the human and even spiritual values represented by the dedication of Harefield's staff to the healing of broken hearts and lungs.
By contrast, what the West London Partnership Forum seems to hold in the highest esteem are the asset values of Harefield and the Royal Brompton hospitals. That is an unworthy and narrow perspective, as the future of Britain's most famous heart and lung hospital transcends west London or even the capital as a whole. Its patients come from far and wide, and only just over 10 per cent. come from the Hillingdon borough where it is situated.
The motives of those who would transplant idyllically tranquil rural Harefield to one of the most congested, polluted, noisy, crime-ridden, overcrowded, concrete jungles of inner London are bound to be criticised and scrutinised. They merit further deep investigation.
The Secretary of State too, if he is a democrat, should demand to study those responses. He knows the strength of public feeling, and has had letters of public protest enough. On 26 April, a petition with more than 80,000 signatures was delivered to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing street--an event which can hardly have passed him by, especially as it was well televised and led by an eight-year-old double heart transplant former patient, Sophie Park, and by the then leader of Hillingdon borough council, councillor Richard Barnes, now the Greater London Assembly councillor for Ealing and Hillingdon.
If care of patients were poor at Harefield, the fiercest critics would be its patients past and present. However, the Hamsters--the Harefield transplant club, which represents those who have had transplants there--are its staunchest supporters, as are members of the Rebeat club, which is affiliated to the British Heart Foundation and has some 400 members nationwide--people who are, or have been, patients at Harefield hospital, and their close relatives.
Were there a cogent case for Harefield hospital's closure, I as the local Member of Parliament would have had it represented to me by my electors, but I have not. Moreover, all parties on Hillingdon borough council would not have voted together to save and develop the hospital unless that were the wish of local residents.
What is more, the outline business case projects that the closure of the Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals will be set against a requirement for only an extra nine cardiothoracic beds by 2006, which is when the new hospital is due to be completed, and an extra 27 by 2011. In relation to the overall number of beds in west London in the hospitals affected by the proposed changes, only an extra 24 beds are projected by 2011--an extra hundredth of a bed per 1,000 population.
Clearly, more than health economics is involved. I suggest the answer lies in the strategic objective to regenerate the Paddington basin in central London, to which aim Harefield hospital and its staff are intended to be sacrificed. I do not think that the prognosis for the Paddington basin site is good, because it was flooded on 2 November.
Were there natural justice, such a flagrant business and pecuniary interest on the part of the Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster health authority would invalidate the whole consultation process because, to quote the West London Partnership Forum again:
The problems of access, parking, accommodation for visitors and staff, road user charges and physical safety for rehabilitating patients and their relatives are plain to all--except the West London Partnership Forum. The problems of travelling to Paddington should alone invalidate the Paddington basin site. However, Harefield is the optimum location: set in green belt in rural Middlesex with ample gardens and lawns, it has a helipad, cheap and friendly accommodation and easy access to the M4, M40, M1, M25, Heathrow, Luton, Northolt and Denham airfields, the tubes at Uxbridge and Northwood and rail services at Watford and at Denham.
History repeats itself, but each generation is reluctant to accept the lessons of the past. In her history of the hospital, "Heart of Harefield", the former consultant surgeon at Harefield, Mary Shepherd, points out that, in response to a report by the London Health Planning Consortium, which had similar centralising plans in 1979, Harefield commented on that report's lack of evidence for cardiac centres located in general or in teaching hospitals performing better than those that were not. She said that
Industrial relations and service to the public are excellent. It has the space and ability to expand. Its location is more convenient for patients who come from all over the country and the world than any of the hospitals amongst whom it is proposed to divide its work. The quality of its treatment and the quiet peace of the surroundings outweigh all other considerations. The public is entitled to hear better reasons for its destruction.