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Hon. Members: Object.

28 Feb 2001 : Column 1006


Motion made,

Line 40, before the word 'European' insert the words 'Environmental Audit Committee or with the'.
Line 50, before the word 'European' insert the words 'Environmental Audit Committee or with the'.
Line 52, at the end insert the words:--
'(4A) notwithstanding paragraphs (2) and (4) above, where more than two committees or sub-committees appointed under this order meet concurrently in accordance with paragraph (4)(e) above, the quorum of each such committee or sub-committee shall be two.'--[Mr. Betts.]

Hon. Members: Object.


Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.


Drink Driving

10 pm

Mr. Howard Flight (Arundel and South Downs): I rise to present a petition on behalf of my constituent, Mrs. Vivien Sumner of Pulborough. It relates to the tragic death of one person and the severe injury of another arising from a drunken driving incident. The drunken driver was sentenced to seven years in jail, with a five-year suspension to run concurrently. It seems nonsense to have concurrency for the suspension of licences and prison sentences because it results in a less effective ban on driving.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

28 Feb 2001 : Column 1007

NHS (East Kent)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Betts.]

10.1 pm

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe): I am very grateful for this opportunity to draw attention to the state of the national health service in east Kent. I asked for this debate for a very simple reason. I have had the great privilege to be the Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe for nearly 18 years. In all that time, I have never received anything like as many complaints from my constituents about the NHS as I have in the past few months. Most of the complaints I have received relate to the William Harvey hospital, but before I come to the hospital, I want to make two other points.

The first relates to the reorganisation of primary care. I was not enthusiastic about the replacement of general practitioner fundholding by primary care groups, but the Shepway primary care group, covering an area almost exactly coterminous with Shepway district council and my constituency, has done well. It has built strong local links and developed a strong local identity. Now, barely two years from its formation, it is to be reorganised, and a possible form of reorganisation would involve a merger with Ashford primary care group. I hope that that merger will not take place. Local links are of great importance in the delivery of primary care. They should be maintained and strengthened, rather than diluted. They would be diluted if this merger were to go ahead.

My second point relates to one particular and specific respect in which health care in east Kent has deteriorated during the past four years. Heart disease is not trivial. Those who are suffering from it should be examined and treated as soon as possible. I am sure that everyone would agree with that. It is therefore worth examining how those who are suffering from heart disease are treated by the NHS now as compared with March 1997, immediately before the general election.

In March 1993, 63 people in east Kent were waiting more than 13 weeks for admission to hospital for cardiovascular surgery. By October 2000, the number had doubled to 124. The number of those waiting more than 13 weeks to see a cardiologist had increased from 40, in March 1997, to 220 at the end of last year. Those figures, alas, speak for themselves and the tale they tell is very bad news for my constituents.

I want to devote most of the time available to me to the state of hospitals in east Kent and, in particular, to William Harvey hospital, which is situated at Willesborough in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Green), but which serves most of my constituents.

The remarks that I am about to make are not directed at the staff of the hospital. For the most part, they are striving heroically in the most difficult of circumstances to give their patients the care that they deserve. However, in far too many cases, the patients are not receiving that care.

I have, of necessity, had to make a selection from the many complaints that I have received. Time does not permit me to refer to anything like all of them. I shall begin with the case of Mr. Duff, whose wife came to see me at one of my regular advice centres. This is what I

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was told by Mrs. Duff, as set out in a letter that I wrote to the chief executive of East Kent Hospitals NHS trust on 27 November. I wrote:

The chief executive of the trust replied on 28 December. He said that

My constituents, Mr. and Mrs. Horton, wrote to me on 20 November. This is what they said:

With considerable restraint, my constituent continues:

She adds:

On 24 January, my constituent was sent an apology by the chief executive.

On 26 November, my constituent, Mrs. Anita Law, wrote to me, and this is part of what she said in her letter:

Mr. Damian Green (Ashford): As my right hon. and learned Friend says, the William Harvey hospital is in my constituency, and I echo his remarks about the

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conscientiousness of its staff. However, my experience reflects his. When I last visited the hospital, people had been waiting on trolleys in the accident and emergency department for 24 hours. I have received a constant stream of letters and telephone calls from people complaining not about the standard of care, but about the standard of cleanliness and, in particular, of food, which is so important for convalescence. In the years that I have been associated with Ashford, I have never known the health service in a more parlous state.

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