Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [28 February],

12 Mar 2001 : Column 793

Hon. Members: Object.


Motion made,

Line 31, at end add--
'( ) The committee shall have power to appoint a sub-committee, which shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, and to report to the committee from time to time.
( ) The committee shall have power to report from time to time the minutes of evidence taken before the sub-committee.
( ) The quorum of the sub-committee shall be three.'.-- [Mr. Mike Hall.]

Hon. Members: Object.


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [31 January],

Hon. Members: Object.


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [23 January],

Hon. Members: Object.


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. Mike Hall.]

Hon. Members: Object.

12 Mar 2001 : Column 794

Cromer Hospital

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

2.11 am

Mr. David Prior (North Norfolk): It is a great pleasure to have the chance to debate the redevelopment of Cromer hospital--a pleasure that might be slightly diminished by the fact that it is 2.15 am, but a great pleasure none the less.

The first Cromer cottage hospital was established in Louden road in 1886. It was funded by local people, as were all subsequent additions and improvements. In 1932, it moved to its current site, and it was taken over by the national health service in 1948. However, the tradition of local involvement, personal donations and local fundraising activities has remained a hallmark of Cromer hospital to this day. The friends of the hospital are a dedicated and hard-working organisation, raising thousands of pounds a year and ensuring that the local community enjoys a close involvement with the hospital.

The atmosphere in the hospital reflects that close involvement. It is happy, friendly, relaxed, welcoming and caring. This is a genuine community hospital, and it is essential that, whatever its future development, its character is preserved. I have spoken to a great many people over the last few years--patients, and people who have known the hospital for years--who have praised it and its staff for the care and love that they devote to it. The hospital can be proud that it stands for all that is best in the great vocational tradition of the health service, but it stands for something else as well: it is a 1930s building, which has been added to piecemeal ever since.

A report prepared by Norfolk and Norwich Health Care NHS trust, of which Cromer hospital is a part, stated in 1998:

Parking is increasingly a problem.

Entrance to the hospital grounds is narrow and makes access difficult.

The current facilities at Cromer are old, ill maintained and not best suited to modern medicine. The building requires substantial investment to meet the minimal requirements of relevant statutory regulations and it is likely that increasingly large amounts of investment will be required in the future as the buildings age and deteriorate further. Current estimates of the potential cost of carrying out the backlog of maintenance required at Cromer put the cost as high as £2.2 million over the next three years in order for the hospital to meet its statutory obligations for health and safety.

The report continues:

In many ways, therefore, Cromer hospital is a symbol of the NHS: it has outstanding and caring staff supported by the community, but working with substandard

12 Mar 2001 : Column 795

facilities. For those reasons, since 1994 Norfolk and Norwich Health Care NHS trust has generally accepted that Cromer hospital should be substantially redeveloped. The recent dedicated cataract surgery and gastroenterology services are examples of the trust's commitment to that.

In July 2000, a resident of Cromer, Mrs. Sagle Bernstein, died, leaving Cromer hospital a fantastically generous legacy of £10 million. The trustees of the legacy are the board of Norfolk and Norwich Health Care NHS trust. To avoid any misunderstandings, I wish to state unambiguously, first, that no NHS funding will be lost as a result of that legacy. The legacy must be additional to NHS funds.

Secondly, the legacy and all the accumulated interest are for the benefit of Cromer hospital; that will not be siphoned off for use elsewhere in the health service. That has been confirmed to me by the chief executive of the acute trust. I hope that the Minister will confirm those two vital points in her reply, as I know that that would go a long way to putting at rest the minds of many of those who live in Cromer.

That incredibly generous bequest allows the trust to create a world-class hospital in Cromer. It means that we can now look forward for the next 100 years, not only the next two or three. It also allows the nursing, clinical, caring and community traditions of Cromer hospital to be allied to world-class facilities, operations and resources. It is an opportunity that I as the Member of Parliament for North Norfolk am determined to see grasped.

The acute trust and the primary care group in north Norfolk have promised that they will deliver a business plan by the end of March 2001, setting out their joint agreed proposals for the future. It will bring together primary care, intermediate care, elderly rehabilitation and acute care. It will also need to take into account the location of the general practitioner's surgery in Cromer and the rehabilitation facilities currently located at Benjamin court, in Cromer, as well as the acute services.

It is generally agreed that all the existing services in the hospital will be retained and enhanced with major expansion in ophthamology, dermatology, endoscopy, cardiology, diagnostics, maternity services, diabetics, neurology--including a service for stroke victims--renal dialysis, minor surgery and post-operative cancer treatment. That is not a comprehensive list; nor would it be appropriate for me to submit one as I am not a clinician. By the end of March, however, there will be agreement between the primary care group and the acute trust on what should be included.

There must also be proper consultation with the community. It is essential that the deadline, at the end of March, is adhered to, so that local people feel that, after so many years of uncertainty, progress is at last being made.

Some 35,000 to 40,000 people in North Norfolk are over 65. By 2011, the number is predicted to increase by 20 per cent. That will lead to increased demand for intermediate care services, day care, rehabilitation and out-patient services. It is essential, therefore, that the plans for the hospital take those requirements into account. Cromer should become a centre of excellence for the treatment of older people, with intensive physio and

12 Mar 2001 : Column 796

occupational therapy services such as hydrotherapy. I support also the provision of general practitioner community beds in the new hospital.

A few years ago, when the acute trust drew up its plans, it was looking at Cromer primarily as a satellite of the Norfolk and Norwich. That has changed. Rightly, the future of Cromer hospital requires an integrated approach from primary care through to rehabilitation. That may mean that the current site is not large enough or adequate and that alternative sites in Cromer will have to be investigated. If so, I am that sure that the district council will be supportive. A new state-of-the-art hospital could play a major part in the regeneration of Cromer, to which all of us in north Norfolk are committed.

I am anxious, however, that the involvement of different parts of the health service--the Norfolk and Norwich health authority, the acute trust, the community health trust and the primary care group--does not lead to unnecessary, bureaucratic delay. When the plan has been put together, it needs one organisation to be in charge to drive it through. The Minister needs to address that issue urgently.

I remember well when, in the early 1980s, Sir Roy Griffiths produced a report on the national health service and said that if Florence Nightingale was walking through an NHS ward, she would ask who was in charge. The issue of who is in charge at the new Cromer hospital is a very important one for the Minister to grasp. As I said, it is essential that there is open, transparent and genuine consultation with local people.

Cromer hospital is very much north Norfolk's hospital. It belongs to the people of north Norfolk, not to Whitehall or even to Norwich. We want a world-class hospital in Cromer, but we also want it to retain the character that it has developed over the past 100 years. It needs to reflect the great voluntary tradition of all those who have supported it for so many generations.

I hope that when the plan to redevelop the hospital emerges at the end of March, as has been promised, the Minister will lend her support to it. I also hope that she will lend her weight and authority to ensuring that the lines of responsibility are clear and that action is taken.

We have a chance that comes once in a generation to create something really special in Cromer. Let us make sure that we do the right thing and let us get on with it.

Next Section

IndexHome Page