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Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con): The St. Julian ward is the only one in that part of Hertfordshire offering respite to carers whose loved ones are desperately ill. Will the Minister therefore ensure that the consultation process considers its proposed closure very carefully?

Ms Winterton: I assure the hon. Gentleman that the trust will be made aware of this debate, but I hope that he and the other Opposition Members present will agree that it is right for the local NHS to get back on an even keel. The proposed changes are subject to consultation: although difficult decisions will have to be taken, I assure the House that every effort is being made to ensure that there is only minimum disruption to services and to jobs.

As I have said, the work of the local NHS trust has been extremely impressive. These are difficult decisions, but I repeat that I have been assured that any disruption to services will be kept to a minimum, and that some of the savings will be reinvested in alternative provision.I understand how strongly some hon. Members feel about this matter, and hope that my remarks have helped to reassure them.

Question put and agreed to.

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