Previous SectionIndexHome Page

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Miss Melanie Johnson): I congratulate the hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) on securing this debate on health services in the Gosport peninsula. Before I turn to the specific issues that he raised, I pay tribute to the work of all the staff in the Fareham and Gosport area and the role that they play in delivering quality services. All Members rightly attach the highest importance to national health service developments in their own constituencies. It is important that local people can have local access to high-quality health services. The hon. Gentleman is obviously demonstrating his interest in the subject by raising this debate.

I begin by looking at the context of this matter. Our NHS improvement plan set out a challenging 10-year programme for reform. As part of that, we want services to be accessible, flexible and designed around the needs of local patients. The policy of devolution gives local communities an opportunity to plan and develop health services according to their needs and demands and we have backed that up with significant funding.

Overall, there will be an average year-on-year increase in England of 7 per cent., over and above inflation. There will be an increase of £34 million in total budgets between 2003–04 and 2007–08, and more than 75 per cent. of that will go directly to PCTs. That means that we are putting resources in the hands of people in the front line of the NHS, alongside their responsibilities for developing and running services.

Fareham and Gosport PCT, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Gosport, will receive an increase in revenue allocation of £41 million between 2003–04 and 2005–06. That represents a cash increase of 30 per cent. However, to achieve our goal of modernising the NHS, many NHS economies and organisations are considering, with their local stakeholders, changes to the way in which they organise their services. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that hospital services need to change if we are to continue to fulfil patients' needs and improve access. Services cannot remain static forever, but must be responsive to local needs.

In Fareham and Gosport, work is already under way to plan health services fit for the future. Central to these plans is the major private finance initiative to which the hon. Gentleman referred. That scheme will mean a
2 Nov 2004 : Column 286
redevelopment of hospital services in Portsmouth, focusing on the current Queen Alexandra hospital site in Cosham. Once the new hospital is completed, all acute in-patient services will move there. It will be the main acute site for the whole of south-east Hampshire.

The rebuilding of the Queen Alexandra hospital and the reorganisation of its services mean that the local NHS has a unique opportunity to look afresh at what it does, and from where. As the hon. Gentleman noted, in October last year, the local PCT commenced a project to review the health needs of the local population and develop a strategy to provide services to meet those needs over the next five years and beyond. That work included a needs assessment, site feasibility studies, analysis of patient activity data and a bed census.

In March, as a result of that work, three broad options were offered for further consideration. They were discussed at various informal meetings, eight of which were held in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. In addition, five staff briefings were held.

The PCT is now undertaking a comprehensive and thorough consultation process that gives local people an opportunity to make their views known and to shape local health services. All that is in line with the Government's policy and principles, outlined in the document, "Keeping the NHS Local".

As the hon. Gentleman knows, two main proposals are being consulted on. He has gone through them already, so I shall not outline them again. However, the dispersed model provides new buildings for services when and where they need replacing, while the community hospitals model develops community hospitals as the hub of health services, in both Fareham and Gosport. Common to both models is the building of a new Fareham community hospital, and of new premises for an existing GP practice.

The hon. Gentleman raised concerns about the future of the Royal Hospital Haslar. I am aware that it has been a subject of discussion locally for many years. As he knows, the Ministry of Defence will vacate the hospital in 2007. The former Portsmouth and South East health authority gave a commitment in 2000, following public consultation, to develop a substantial facility at Haslar, subject to MOD agreement to the use of the site. The new hospital will offer day surgery, diagnostic and out-patient facilities, operative clinics and accident treatment.

That commitment was subsequently reiterated in a letter sent to the hon. Gentleman in January last year by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Hazel Blears), who is now Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety but who at the time was a Minister in the Department of Health. The local NHS has therefore been in discussions with the MOD about the potential use of part of the site for the provision of those services. The MOD identified two potential locations on the site of the Royal Hospital Haslar on which to develop a range of services—the crosslink block and the undeveloped area on the periphery of the site. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the latter option was excluded after public feedback this summer. The use of the crosslink block remains under public consultation, but the proposal brings with it, as he outlined, a substantial capital cost accruing from the purchase of
2 Nov 2004 : Column 287
the site and the necessary adaptations. The NHS has a duty to use public money wisely, and must therefore consider other options. The future of the Royal Hospital Haslar cannot be looked at in isolation, and the NHS has a responsibility to look at a range of options to ensure that primary and secondary services meet the needs of local patients and fit with wider plans for modernisation.

The precise configuration of services is under consultation, and we are in discussions on the matter. All the services currently provided by the Royal Hospital Haslar, including therapies, diagnostics and out-patient services, will still be provided locally, but the location of those services has yet to be decided. The NHS in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight remains committed to the pattern of services for the population of Gosport and Fareham agreed after the 2000 consultation, but their precise nature is under debate. It would be inappropriate to speculate about the outcome of the present consultation, which does not end formally until 8 November next week. Locally, the NHS has been in discussions with the MOD about the use of the site and I have already outlined the two options and their consequences. The arrangements for those discussions, as well as discussions with other partners, are the responsibility of a local partnership board, which will make sure that the quality and continuity of health services for the people of Gosport, Fareham and the south-east Hampshire area are not affected in the event of a delay, as the hon. Gentleman mentioned, in completing the redevelopment of the Queen Alexandra hospital in Cosham. The MOD has given assurances that sufficient time will be allowed for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight strategic health authority, the Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust and the Fareham and Gosport primary care trust to decide future
2 Nov 2004 : Column 288
requirements for the Haslar site and ensure that patients continue to receive the highest possible standard of health care over that period.

The hon. Gentleman spoke extensively about the role of the MOD, but he will understand that I can only comment from the perspective of the Department of Health. I was pleased to hear that he has had discussions with my colleagues in the MOD, even though I detected a note of frustration—the future of health services on the Gosport peninsula is obviously an issue of great concern to him. As I have mentioned, it is our policy that the local NHS should decide the priorities for the NHS locally, including decisions on the location of services. That is where specific local knowledge and expertise lies, and it is not appropriate for Ministers to decide on the direction of travel and how services should be configured, as we have made clear.

There is a discussion to be had about the relative merits of the different options with regard to the cost to the local economy. Money deployed on a more expensive option would mean less for other services. Local people need to have that discussion with the local health service. That process is going on, and the meeting on 15 December, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, is part of that. We have made it clear that it is best for that local knowledge and those local decisions to come into play through local decision making.

The health community in Fareham and Gosport has set out its proposals for change to a number of the key health services to improve the quality and the range of services for local people. That is an opportunity for local people to influence the debate by responding to the consultation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman continues to work with the local NHS to build a better future for residents in his area and that he urges local people to respond to the consultation so that they have a say in the provision of local health services.

Next Section IndexHome Page