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That, for the purposes of their approval under section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, the Government's assessment as set out in the Pre-Budget Report 2005 shall be treated as if it were an instrument subject to the provisions of Standing Order No. 118 (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation).[Tony Cunningham.]
That the Films (Exclusivity Agreements) (Revocation) Order 2005, (S.I., 2005, No. 3098), dated 1st November 2005, and the Forensic Science Service Trading Fund (Revocation) Order (S.I., 2005, No. 3138), dated 10th November 2005, be referred to Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation. [Tony Cunningham.]
That Mr Brian Binley, Ms Katy Clark, Mr Phillip Hollobone, Kelvin Hopkins, Mrs Sian C. James, Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger, Mr Alan Meale, Dr John Pugh, Mrs. Linda Riordan and Sir Peter Soulsby be members of the Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill.[Rosemary McKenna, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.]
That Mr Jim Cunningham be discharged from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Committee and Lyn Brown be added.[Rosemary McKenna, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.]
Mr. Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): A preponderance of health-related issues and debates is raised at this time of year, and I am sure that that will be especially true if the forecasts of a harsh winter are even remotely accurate. The issues that I wish to raise are, sadly for west Cumbria, neither seasonal nor unusual, but endemic to the area. As one of the youngest Members in the House and as someone with the privilege of representing the constituency in which I was born and raised, I know that they have been a problem for 20 years. Stability in the west and north Cumbrian health economy is desperately needed, as two decades of uncertainty and anxiety have eroded the morale of staff and the confidence of patients throughout the area. That must change.
West Cumbria consists of approximately 150,000 people who are dispersed in towns and villages covering a huge geographical area that is served by a poor road infrastructure. Car ownership is in the lowest bracket in the country, and public transport is woefully inadequate. As a result, urban towns and rural villages, although often technically close to one another are isolated by the difficulties associated with the communications infrastructure. As regards health services, west Cumbria is covered by the West Cumbria primary care trust, the North Cumbria acute hospitals NHS trust and mental health and ambulance trusts established in the same area. All those trusts recently informed the public that they must fundamentally examine the way in which services in west Cumbria are delivered.
The PCT did so on 18 November, when it circulated to some staff, but not all, proposals for changing services in west Cumbria, including the closure of all beds in community hospitals in Millom, Keswick, Workington, Maryport and Cockermouth. The community hospital in Workington is brand new, and was opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham) about a year ago following new investment of £12 million. The proposals were sent to staff in the PCT, and an accompanying press release was sent to the media. Neither my hon. Friend nor I was notified, and we still await official notification. In the absence of that basic courtesy, I have relied on members of the PCT who have sent me anonymous copies of the proposals, and the reporting of the local and regional media. That is a scandal, which I utterly condemn.
Most importantly, given the difficulties posed by geography, the sparsity of population, low car ownership, poor public transport and an ageing population, the proposals to remove hospital beds from west Cumbrian communities were a disgrace. Moreover, they were made at a time when the NHS, both nationally and in north and west Cumbria, has received record levels of investment. It is not an exaggeration to say that our local health service has more money than it has ever had, and has received record injections of investment since 1997.
To avoid accusations of politicking, in preparation for our debate my office asked the House of Commons Libraryan independent, non-partisan resourceto
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provide figures for investment in the West Cumbria PCT and its predecessor since the Government were elected in 1997. I was delighted to find that allocations for west Cumbria have increased by 96 per cent. over that periodeffectively, they have doubled.
My hon. Friend the Member for Workington and I began working for the withdrawal of those proposals as soon as we learned about them, and in doing so brought the matter to the attention of Health Ministers, including the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Byrne), who is present tonight. There are a number of reasons why Health Ministers were as aghast as me. First, the proposals make no sense given the record funding since 1997.
"develop a new generation of modern NHS community hospitals . . . These state of the art centres will provide diagnostics, day surgery and outpatients facilities closer to where people live and work."
Thirdly, the proposals are entirely contrary to the very precise thrust of health policy in this country. The forthcoming White Paper will outline the details in the spring, but let us be clear about the policy direction. The Secretary of State for Health recently told a meeting of the NHS Alliance that
"want more care and treatment closer to home, in community hospitals or health centresalthough we have to become much smarter at engaging people at an early stage in designing and considering options that involve fewer beds and other changes to acute hospitals alongside better services in the community."
That point is particularly telling, because the PCT consultation in west Cumbria was also launched against the background of what is likely to lead to a new acute hospital for west Cumbria. Like any new hospital in the UK, it would be smaller in sizeI stress that services should not be diminishedwhich is right for the model of health care that is being progressed through not only national policy but, more importantly, through the advocacy of patients and health care professionals.
In short, any new acute hospital in west Cumbriaor a comprehensive refurbishment of the existing hospital, for that matterwill rely on a network of fully functioning, fit-for-purpose community hospitals. Consequently, those proposals threatened not only the community hospitals themselves, but the delivery of a new acute hospital by a separate trusta quite incredible state of affairs. Will the Minister consider whether the community hospitals are in the wrong trust? Perhaps the acute hospital trust would be a better place from which to run community hospitals throughout west Cumbria, which is an idea that certainly makes sense to me.
The acute hospital in west Cumbria, the West Cumberland hospital, which is in my constituency, is an issue to which I hope to return at a later date, but for
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now I inform the House and the Minister that any new hospital must be of an equal status to the other acute hospital maintained by the same health care trust in Carlisle, in order not only to achieve social justice in the provision of health services in west Cumbria, but to deliver equality of access and equal standards of health care throughout north and west Cumbria.
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