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Ms Stuart: As a parliamentarian I also accept the Speaker's ruling. The Speaker has responded to the issue and I am content with that.

I recognise that my hon. Friend has some very real concerns about the matters that he has raised today, and of course it is important that they are addressed. It must be recognised that the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS trust has been faced with a challenging agenda over the past few years. It has made great progress in many areas. The trust has had to implement some major developments regarding the reconfiguration of services. The trust's management has driven forward the development agenda while maintaining good quality services to the population that the trust serves.

At the start of my speech, I provided my hon. Friends with examples of some of the successes and improvements made by the trust, but every institution is capable of even further improvement and I am sure that that will happen in this case, too.

Even though there have been service changes, it is incumbent on the trust chief executive and chair to ensure that the services provided at the trust meet the needs of patients and ensure their safety. As I outlined earlier, the colorectal service at the trust has been investigated by the regional director of public health. Following his investigations, the trust has acted on his recommendations with regard to future management of the service, and a new fully qualified colorectal surgeon is expected to start work at the trust next week.

Mr. Robinson: That point has been covered. Will my hon. Friend say why, in her opinion, the management will not accept the findings of part II as a simple resolution of our problems so that we can get back to the good progress that we all recognise that the trust has been making?

Ms Stuart: The management and the management style of each trust is a local issue. The difficulty is that, as I understand it, there are still legal proceedings in this case. It would be inappropriate and foolish of a Minister to try

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to second-guess anyone else's reasons but, more important, it would help no one at this stage not to allow a due process to continue. We have made it clear that both the chief executive of the NHS and the regional office are well aware of the situation, but ultimately issues regarding employees are the responsibility of the local employing trust, which must take the decision. Our role is to ensure that proper processes are followed.

Mr. Robinson: It is on that point that we find it most difficult to accept what my hon. Friend is saying. The simple fact is that this process will cause great costs to the hospital--tens of thousands of pounds of further useless legal costs are being incurred, all to no good purpose, because the legal problems, of which I am as well aware as my hon. Friend is, will continue only as long as the trust is intent on a legal resolution. The trust has a recommendation, which it could and should implement. The further this matter goes on, the more difficult the position that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South and I are put in, because our letter, a confidential House of Commons document, is being used--or an attempt is being made to use it--by the trust management to further its legal case, in which it has already been humiliatingly denied.

Ms Stuart: I think that my hon. Friend is trying to tempt me into pre-empting either a decision of the court or a management decision by an NHS trust. Surely it must be up to local trusts, as the employer, to have the final decision on the most appropriate way to proceed, and I would not wish to pre-empt the reasons for their decision.

It would be inappropriate for me to comment in detail, but I suggest to my hon. Friend that if he is still dissatisfied with the answers provided today, he should request a meeting with the Minister responsible for the midlands region, the Minister for Public Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), so that his concerns can be looked at in more detail. I am sure that he will meet my colleagues to discuss his concerns if he thinks that is necessary.

On employment matters relating to an individual consultant where legal proceedings are still on-going, it would be inappropriate for a Minister to do anything other than to say that it is a local matter for the trust and that we will ensure that the due process is being followed.

Question put and agreed to.

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