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Mr. Straw: It is not for me to announce future public spending decisions; as my hon. Friend will appreciate, that is for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. From discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, I know that she is concerned to ensure that expenditure on the games is, so far as is possible, seen as additional, but having won the games for the United Kingdom we cannot start to be competitive between one area and another. I represent a constituency that is even further away from London than my hon. Friend's, and it is my belief that the whole of the United Kingdom will benefit from the games.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. Friend deserves to have given the statement this evening. Those of us who were lobbying before the Government backed the bid know of the important role that he played in chairing the Committee that gave the Government's backing to the bid. Without that Government backing, the bid would not have even got to the starting point. So it is important to recognise his role.

My right hon. Friend has already mentioned some of the places that will benefit—such as Loughborough university, which the Chinese team have already looked around and where they will probably base themselves—but does he recognise the role of the volunteering? I chair the National Strategic Partnership for Volunteering in Sport, and 26 per cent. of all volunteers
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in this country are involved in sport. If they cannot compete at the Olympics, they deserve the chance to volunteer.

For those who want to compete, however, is this not the opportunity to make a real step change in how we offer sport in this country—from schools and community sports to the elite performance centre at places such as Loughborough, Sheffield and Bath? Now that the country is behind us, is this not a golden opportunity to make a step change and to increase the funding—there is always a bit at the end—to match the aspirations that the British people now have?

Mr. Straw: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for what he says. It has been a privilege to chair the Olympic Committee and to see the fantastic work done by others, including my ministerial colleagues and the Prime Minister, but I also thank my hon. Friend for getting at some of us to ensure that what was simply an idea two and a half years ago that perhaps we should have a go at bidding gradually generated into something that became a formal bid and will be the Olympics in 2012. He is right to talk about the opportunities. I think that they will be taken to improve even further our sporting prowess and success.

As for future funding, as my hon. Friend knows, that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of Exchequer.

Mr. Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): As a lifelong Londoner, I am extremely proud and joyous about today's decision. Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the reasons for the success of the bid is that London is the most diverse city in the world? Does he agree that it is important that all our diverse communities benefit from the lead-up to the games, during the games and from their legacy? Finally, does he agree that this is a good example of the success of devolution because the person who planted the seed that led to the bid is the Labour Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone?

Mr. Straw: It is a good example of the devolution that we have introduced, but my hon. Friend makes an even more important point about diversity. London is the most diverse city in the world; but, given the breadth of its diversity, it is more at ease with itself than any other city that I can think of, so winning the bid was not just about numbers. Yes, we have had our difficulties in the past and, yes, things are not perfect; but, as I know, as someone whose London home is in the heart of one of the most diverse areas of this city, it has achieved far better and more relaxed relations than many others have been able to do.

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): My right hon. Friend rightly acknowledges the great contribution made to the bid by London's diversity. Not only will every nation that comes to compete have its own home crowd, but does he agree that the diversity of London and, indeed, the whole country will dramatically contribute to the strength of our team competing in 2012, and that we are therefore much more likely to win many more medals than in the past?

Mr. Straw: Yes, to the first part of the question, and I hope so, to the second.
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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Environmental Protection

That the draft Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention and Control) Regulations 2005, which were laid before this House on 17th March, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.—[Mr. Alan Campbell.]

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Northern Ireland

That the draft Colleges of Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2005, which was laid before this House on 28th June, be approved.—[Mr. Alan Campbell.]

Question agreed to.


Make Poverty History

7.54 pm

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): Mr. Speaker, you have taken a personal interest in promoting the engagement of young people in the democratic process, so you will be pleased, as I am pleased and very proud, that I am able to present a petition drafted by the pupils of Dr. Triplett's primary school in my constituency of Hayes and Harlington. The pupils of class 3T, with their teacher Miss Caroline Thomas, this month discussed the Make Poverty History campaign, drafted the petition and went into their playground and secured the signatures of parents, teachers and others.

The petition of the staff, pupils and parents of Dr. Triplett's primary school, Hayes,

To lie upon the Table.

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NHS (Lincolnshire)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Alan Campbell.]

7.56 pm

Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): I am delighted to have secured this important Adjournment debate on Lincolnshire's national health service at a time when a vital range of services and facilities across the county appear to be under threat as a result of cost-cutting measures necessitated by a funding shortfall.

The United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust is one of the largest hospital trusts in the country and serves approximately 641,000 people. Last year, the trust treated 175,000 accident and emergency patients, 500,000 out-patients and nearly 100,000 in-patients. The trust provides a comprehensive range of hospital-based medical, surgical, paediatric, obstetric and gynaecological services from nine hospitals across Lincolnshire, two of which are in my constituency.

Pilgrim hospital in Boston is a large district general hospital, with a 24-hour major A and E department and a range of specialities. The other hospital in my constituency is the Skegness and district hospital, which is a 39-bed community hospital with a 24-hour A and E department that deals not only with local residents but with a high tourist influx throughout the whole year. The two hospitals treat about 73,000 A and E cases and 150,000 out-patients each year. The East Lincolnshire primary care trust, which covers my constituency and the other eastern part of Lincolnshire, caters for 275,000 residents of east Lincolnshire, providing a range of services including GP services, dental services, community pharmacy services and community nursing services.

I requested today's important debate as it has been announced that, across Lincolnshire, approximately 300 health service jobs are under threat, and five wards may be closed—one at Grantham and district hospital, two at Lincoln City hospital, and two at Pilgrim hospital in Boston in my constituency. In addition, up to three surgical wards will become day-case or short-stay wards. These proposals are understandably causing significant angst both in my constituency and elsewhere in Lincolnshire.

The Lincolnshire health service is already struggling to cope, and I fear, along with many people working within Lincolnshire's NHS, that these cutbacks would have a profound effect on the provision of local health care available to my constituents and the other people who reside in Lincolnshire. Staff at Pilgrim and Skegness hospitals, as well as health care workers and professionals across the county, are working tirelessly to provide the best possible service under challenging circumstances and conditions, and I would like to take this opportunity formally to thank them for all their hard work. Unfortunately, health care professionals and local residents across Lincolnshire fear that the provision of health care will suffer if jobs are lost and hospital wards are to close.

The exponential growth of Lincolnshire's population has put great strains on public services such as the NHS. From 1991 to 2001 Lincolnshire's population increased by 10 per cent. compared with the national average of
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2.7 per cent. This is a significant—and, I believe, unrecognised—increase. The figure includes not only people retiring to Lincolnshire from the midlands, as they have done traditionally, but those moving to Lincolnshire from the south of England to take advantage of the significantly disparate house prices. The problems facing Lincolnshire's national health service are different from those in many other areas. Our county covers a comparably large and predominantly rural area, we have no motorways, and our public transport system is limited.

As well as a growing population, we have an ageing population. Some 22 per cent. of the population of east Lincolnshire is over 65, compared with 16 per cent. of the total UK population. Additionally, there is a considerable seasonal influx of tourists to the east Lincolnshire coast. There are significant pockets of socio-economic deprivation and a transient population who often work in the low-wage, low-skill agricultural and seaside economic sectors. All those factors mean that our community is heavily reliant on the local NHS sector, but the Government have failed to recognise Lincolnshire's specific needs and have thus underfunded the primary care trust and hospital trust, which has resulted in the situation that we face today.

Those factors have put added pressures and strains on Lincolnshire's national health service, but the service has received inadequate funding from central Government to maintain and expand its facilities. As a result, the NHS in Lincolnshire reported an £8.1 million deficit for 2004–05 and faces a £20 million shortfall in 2005–06. The United Lincolnshire hospitals trust and the East Lincolnshire PCT have considered ways of balancing their budgets and eliminating the shortfall, but have unfortunately concluded that they have no alternative but to make cutbacks to front-line services. I warned the House in a debate on 16 January 2003 that Lincolnshire's health service was in financial difficulty. Indeed, I cited the example of the West Lincolnshire primary care trust, which at the time had run out of money for that financial year and subsequently had to cancel many surgical operations.

During the 2004–05 financial year, the East Lincolnshire primary care trust had a specific shortfall of £4.5 million against an estimated revenue allocation level below the national average of £12 million a year. Finally—at last—the Government have recognised their consistently inadequate and unfair funding of Lincolnshire's primary care trusts and recently announced significant increases from April 2006. East Lincolnshire PCT will receive an increase of 13.6 per cent. in 2006–07 and of 12.4 per cent. in 2007–08. The requisite figures for the West Lincolnshire primary care trust are 9.5 per cent. and 10.5 per cent., and the figures for the Lincolnshire South West Teaching primary care trust are 9.1 per cent. and 10.3 per cent. Although that additional money is welcome, it will arrive too late to stop the cuts that are being talked about at the moment. I shall come back to what I believe should be done later.

It is important to put on record the interrelationship between primary care trusts and hospital trusts, because the underfunding of Lincolnshire's PCTs has a severe knock-on impact. The primary trusts have allegedly failed to fund adequately out-of-hours and GP services, so patients go to hospitals directly, unnecessarily, or via inappropriate referrals. As there is little provision to
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transfer patients out into the community, significant numbers of people are occupying surgical and medical beds. At Pilgrim hospital in Boston alone, 10 per cent. of the beds are occupied by people who should and could be in the community, rather than in acute beds. That happens for a variety of reasons, such as delayed discharges and because people are waiting for intermediate care, waiting to go to other, already full, hospitals or waiting for rehabilitation in the community. I accept and support the fact that there is an urgent necessity to increase community care facilities, such as emergency care practitioners and specialist nurses, and for investment in intermediary care facilities. Such facilities are not there today.

I cannot fathom how closing five wards throughout Lincolnshire, including two in Pilgrim hospital in my constituency, which amounts to 58 beds, will improve the situation. It is inexplicable. Indeed, a recent hospital trust press release highlights an existing significant shortage of beds that puts pressure on A and E services. It says:

The beds are not there.

In addition, there are concerns about the out-of-hours service across the country, and Lincolnshire is no exception. Although I recognise that the scheme may allow doctors to spend more time in their surgeries rather than driving long distances in the evening and the early morning, there are fears that the out-of-hours new practice is undermining GPs' contracts and contacts with the community.

Some GPs in Lincolnshire fear that the new system may even be dangerous, putting patients' health and safety at risk as a result of inadequate funding allocated to the new scheme. Only last month, the independent Healthcare Commission was asked to look into East Lincolnshire PCT's out-of-hours service, following specific GP criticism. Once initial inquiries are completed, the commission will decide whether it needs to press ahead with a formal investigation. I await, as my constituents do, its decision with interest.

I have one final issue to tackle—the new consultant contract. Sold as a plan to improve service provision by rewarding consultants fairly for all activities undertaken, it was poorly resourced from the outset. Indeed, it has achieved the inverse of the original objective. There is now a drive to curtail consultant activity down to a base level to save money by reducing consultant pay. That is inevitably having a detrimental impact on patient care and was a significant contributory factor to the shortfall within the United Lincolnshire hospitals trust. It is incredible that the Department of Health, as well as the strategic health authority, failed to foresee the problem.

In conclusion, will the Minister assess the viability of allowing the primary care trust to draw down money from next year to fund the wards at Pilgrim hospital as intermediate care wards so that no beds are lost, so that there is no diminution of service for my constituents and other Lincolnshire residents who use Pilgrim hospital, and so that the primary care trust has a facility within Pilgrim hospital to take the patients out of acute and medical wards? That would free them up and ensure that there is no impact on other essential services in Pilgrim and other hospitals across Lincolnshire.
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The Government of course blame the funding shortfalls on those working in the NHS. Will the Minister therefore explain why, if, as the Secretary of State stated on the "Today" programme, the funding shortfalls are all a mistake of the managers in the NHS, there have been no resignations by those responsible for the mismanagement? I am not talking just about Lincolnshire, because the problem is becoming prevalent in hospital trusts across the country.

The proposals to cut services and jobs in Lincolnshire's NHS are of significant concern not just to those who use the NHS, but to those who work in it. They will have a detrimental impact on health care provision and a negative impact on morale, and will exacerbate recruitment problems, which the Minister will realise are already serious in much of Lincolnshire. As a result of bed shortages, it may put routine and regular surgery at risk without community care facilities in place first. The Government were warned, but they failed to act in time to stop those cuts. The people in Lincolnshire now hope that they can take action to stop the ward closures and the talked-about job cuts.

8.8 pm

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