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3 Feb 2003 : Column 124—continued

Dr. Richard Taylor: As always, the Minister emphasises the positive, and I agree about the benefits of a diagnostic and treatment centre, but he does not mention the losses. I know that they happened in the past, but he must realise that people lost every acute bed and a full accident and emergency department. We would rather have what we had than the £16 million—not £13 million—that some of us think is being wasted on a block that is only six years old. He must remember what we have lost.

Mr. Lammy: Money is never wasted if people's health care improves. Health economies change. The hon. Gentleman says that he is concerned about something that happened in the past. As a result of the services and facilities that I have outlined, the people of Kidderminster have a bright future in terms of their

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local health economy. I will deal with the number of beds, but I believe that those people are being served properly. I ask him to be careful and considered in the language that he uses.

The Alexandra hospital in Redditch has 340 beds and 20 day-case beds. It has six modern operating theatres. There is a recently completed day unit with two theatres and an endoscopy unit. The accident and emergency department has recently been extended under the national modernisation programme, of which the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Jacqui Smith), is proud, to improve the services provided. All major specialities and sub-specialities are provided other than cardiac surgery and neurosurgery.

From April this year, the NHS will receive a massive extra financial investment for the modernisation of both NHS facilities and systems of health care. Primary care trust revenue allocations for Worcestershire will rise to £426 million in 2003–04 and reach £510 million by 2005–06. The Government are intent on continuing to put that investment into the Worcestershire health economy over the next three years. The hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride) talks about under-investment. She should go back to the record of the previous Administration because therein lies the problem that the Government are intent on correcting.

Plans for how those finances will be used locally are being developed in partnership across organisations as part of the local delivery plans due for completion by the end of March. Those plans, moving on from the detailed three-year capacity plans completed in November, set the operational planning for the local delivery of the challenging national targets and milestones in the NHS plan.

Miss Kirkbride: I have been listening with interest to the description of our local health services. Although I appreciate many of the Minister's points, he has missed the point of much of this evening's debate. Will he tell us the difference between yellow two alert and red alert?

Mr. Lammy: The hon. Lady should know—but may not—that it is for local trusts and strategic health authorities to advise on local issues affecting the capacity of their services.

On the issue of beds, which was raised by the hon. Member for Wyre Forest, there has been no substantial reduction in the number of beds in Worcestershire. It is plain wrong to suggest that that number has gone down. There are approximately 1,400 acute beds and community-based beds available across Worcestershire,

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compared with 1,387 in 1998-99. The new hospital in Worcester centres all acute services on a single site, thus improving efficiency. As my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester said, the important issue for health services in Worcestershire is not the number of beds, but the appropriateness of the care delivered to patients.

Mr. Luff: Is the Minister guaranteeing that there will be no reduction in bed numbers in the Worcestershire health economy, either in the primary care trust community hospitals or the Aconbury wing of the Worcestershire royal hospital, which the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster) rightly emphasised in his contribution?

Mr. Lammy: The hon. Gentleman will know that that is a matter for the local strategic health authority and others engaged in providing services in Worcester. As with other parts of the country, it will depend on demographics and pertinent local issues. However, it is wrong to suggest that there has been a reduction in beds, as it is wrong to talk down the NHS in Worcestershire. There are financial issues that the strategic health authorities and others are now dealing with, but there are many good things happening as well.

There is no denying that the Worcestershire health economy has had a troubled past, with significant financial and service concerns over many years since well before 1997. However, it is not fair to characterise the service changes in Worcestershire as financially driven, as the hon. Member for Wyre Forest attempted to do. The aim of "Investing in Excellence", the strategy of the then Worcestershire health authority, was to sustain and improve the quality of health services for patients across the whole of Worcestershire. The decision to remove blue-light A and E services from Kidderminster was a clinical one, based on very real concerns about maintaining high standards of clinical safety within three closely situated A and E departments. Opposition Members have often tried to revisit the decision on blue-light services, but the Government insist that we must concentrate on the future and the many other services that the people of Kidderminster need.

The minor injuries unit at Kidderminster hospital is one of the most successful of its type, and has well-developed protocols with the ambulance trust and other sites to ensure that patients are taken to the right emergency department immediately. A key indicator for emergency care—

Question put and agreed to.

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