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Mr. Milburn: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has spoken to me about the problem in the Central Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS trust, specifically at King's Mill hospital. I pay tribute to the work that he has done on behalf of the local community. Frankly, this investment should have been made in these areas many years ago. Everyone understands that--the opportunity was there. For 18 years, another Government were in power who could have made that capital investment. Sadly, they decided to put other priorities first. Their priority was not investment in the national health service.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): I take the Secretary of State's statement at face value. It indicated a huge additional investment in the health service. I share the gratitude of north Staffordshire for the huge capital project in the area that will benefit many of my constituents. Will he give an assurance that it is not just the number of patients treated in the NHS that matters, but the outcome of those projects. Will he assure me that the position of those with mental illness and chronic illness will not be overlooked under the NHS plan and in the encouraging announcement that he has just made? He knows my interest in the definition of personal social care, and the ability of people with chronic illness to get the medical treatments they need, which sadly they often have to pay for.

Mr. Milburn: The hon. Gentleman is well versed in these issues, and widely respected on both sides of the House for his views on the national health service. He is right that the NHS is having to manage more mental illness and chronic illness than at any time before. I am pleased that there will be facilities for people with chronic illness and mental illness, including a provision in Bristol, in the area of his hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox).

Mr. Marsha Singh (Bradford, West): May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement? I am absolutely thrilled, as the people of Bradford will be, because the hospitals in my constituency serve all of

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Bradford. I am delighted that, after years of health service cuts, we now have a Government who deliver on their promises. We do not need to electioneer on this subject, because my constituents know that the health service will not be safe under the Tories, whereas it is under Labour. [Interruption.]

Mr. Milburn: Wait until the real electioneering starts!

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The announcement about Bradford involves a significant investment--more than £100 million. I am well aware that some of the buildings at the Bradford Royal infirmary date from the 1930s, and that at the St. Luke's site they date back even before that to the 19th century. I am well aware of the difficulties that staff and patients have had to put up with for many years. I hope that we can make a start on the project in the Bradford area as soon as possible. It will increase the number of beds, and provide investment in extra rehabilitation services that are sorely needed.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): The majority of the announcements were about large, acute hospitals serving urban populations. What progress is being made on replacing community hospitals, which often face the same problems as old, Victorian buildings in need of refurbishment? They serve smaller towns and rural areas, and include the Victoria hospital, Frome in my constituency.

Mr. Milburn: That is an important issue. The Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart), has today announced extra investment of £13.6 million in one such community hospital at Sheppey to modernise its facilities. It is important that we apply the same rigour to smaller developments as we apply to big acute schemes. When we came to office, there were many developments in the pipeline that were not getting anywhere. We had to take some difficult decisions about prioritisation. We have done that, and it is now paying dividends. Communities are beginning to get the acute hospitals that they need. I now want to move on to the next phase.

We need to advance the private finance initiative, so that the benefits of private finance go beyond purely the acute sector and into the immediate sector, primary care and the development of community hospitals.

Dr. Doug Naysmith (Bristol, North-West): I thank my right hon. Friend for his announcement, particularly in the context of its effect on mental health services in the Bristol area. There were many other good things in the announcement, but the five Bristol Members have pressed my right hon. Friend for such a statement for some time.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the response of the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) was incredibly curmudgeonly, given that his constituents will also benefit?

Mr. Milburn: At best, it was politically inept. I would have expected the hon. Gentleman to welcome two major developments in his area. I find it bizarre that he did not, and I shall be interested to see his press releases later.

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My hon. Friend has lobbied and campaigned assiduously for these developments for many years, in the context of both acute and mental health services. They are long overdue, and I hope that they are warmly welcomed in the area.

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet): I am sure that those representing the constituencies in which hospitals have been announced will, when they are built--if they are built--be as pleased as I was when Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother hospital was built in Margate. Along with many other hospitals, it was built under the last Government. The Secretary of State should bear in mind the fact that building hospitals is not the prerogative of any one Government; it is welcomed on both sides of the House.

The Secretary of State said that modern medicine could not and should not be practised in out-of-date, clapped-out hospitals. Nunnery Fields hospital, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier), is one such: it needs to be closed, and indeed it was scheduled for closure.

Because of the closure of so many residential and nursing home beds--the Secretary of State did not comment on that when asked about it by my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox)--we have a desperate shortage of beds, and a problem of bed blocking, in east Kent. The Secretary of State has two letters from me on his desk on the subject, awaiting answer. Will he give an undertaking that Nunnery Fields hospital will not close until a replacement has been provided, and that this glossy programme will include such a replacement?

Mr. Milburn: The hon. Gentleman said that there had been a lot of new hospital development under the last Government. Let me correct him. Between 1980 and 1997, the last Government gave the go-ahead for seven hospital schemes worth over £40 million. During our first three years in office, we gave the go-ahead for 33 schemes worth over £40 million. The hon. Gentleman should put the situation in perspective.

I know that the hon. Gentleman has had to make difficult decisions about his position relating to the reconfiguration in east Kent, and I am well aware of the local controversy surrounding the issue. I hope that today's announcement of an investment of £102 million in new facilities in east Kent will help.

As for bed blocking, the hon. Gentleman knows that we have made resources available to Kent county council, and have also provided resources for intermediate services through the PFI. If the hon. Gentleman is so concerned about social services expenditure in the area, he might have a word with his Front-Bench team, and persuade them to give a commitment to match our additional expenditure on social services.

Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North): May I echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding), and say a big thank you on behalf of everyone in north Staffordshire who has supported the campaign of the local newspaper, The Sentinel, and every member of the North Staffordshire Hospital NHS trust who has worked hard--under the leadership of David Fillingham--to get the bid

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together and meet the deadlines? May I also thank my right hon. Friend for taking a personal interest in the health needs of north Staffordshire?

Will my right hon. Friend tell us how much money north Staffordshire will receive? May I invite him to visit the area, and to take a close interest in every single development that takes place?

This is wonderful news, and we have real cause for celebration after all those years of no investment.

Mr. Milburn: They do not give up in north Staffordshire!

I will try to pay the area a visit. On the investment, we have put in £224 million. That is a very substantial amount, but the state of the buildings means that it is needed. It will mean that there will be 131 additional beds in the area overall, and I hope that that will be much welcomed too.

Another pleasing element of the north Staffordshire proposals is that the people in the hospital got together with those in the primary care and the community sectors to agree a joint bid. I hope that that will mean that a great many patients may not need to go to hospital at all. That is a good thing: it is a model proposal and it is quite right for us to give it the go-ahead.

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