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Politics is about choices and Conservative Members made their choices when they were in government, and they have made choices in the House when they have come to vote on investment in the national health service. The choices that this Government have made have enabled this brand new, state-of-the-art hospital to be built in the constituency of the hon. Member for Romford. He should have been good enough and honourable enough to have thanked the Government
for pursuing these policies of investment in the national health service and public services.
What we have in the hon. Gentlemans constituency is a £261 million new hospital with 939 beds. The other point that he did not make in his contribution was that it has the flexible capacity for an additional 60 beds if that proves to be needed at some stage in the future and taking account of the concerns that he and other hon. Members have expressed about capacity.
We must also be honest about wanting to move services in the NHS from the acute end of the system to the preventive end. That means that we should do more and more in the community, primary care settings and closer to home and, in the case of older people, supporting them to remain within the community rather than be hospitalised. These decisions must take account of that.
There are other points to be made about the project. It was delivered to time, the hospital represents outstanding value for money and the local health economy is saving more than £100 million by having it built under the private finance initiative. It includes an A and E department, intensive therapy, coronary care, high dependency units, a childrens ward and a new renal dialysis unit. The hospital has transformed the former brownfield landfill site, which was significantly contaminated prior to construction. Open park spaces and children's playgrounds were also created as part of construction. Those will be used by local residents in the hon. Gentlemans constituency. The populations of the neighbouring boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, which have many social, economic and health problems, will benefit enormously from the modern health care facilities offered at the hospital.
The release of surplus land at Oldchurch and Harold Wood has provided the opportunity for key worker and affordable housing to be built on the land. As the hon. Member for Upminster said, the new hospital provides far better accommodation, with 20 per cent. single en-suite rooms. The other beds are in four-bed bays with en-suite facilities. As a result of the new hospital, the local population will receive a higher level of regional neurosciences and cancer services than in other parts of England. These services will also attract more highly skilled staff, which will benefit the borough of Havering and neighbouring boroughs.
I suspect that the hon. Gentleman should have titled his press release this week, A Christmas Present from the Labour Government, but he would not do that because he is intent on coming here to draw attention to the negatives rather than the positives. I want to deal specifically[ Interruption.] No, the hon. Gentleman very cleverly reeled off a list of thank yous and nowhere on that list did he recognise that the hospital was a consequence of political decisions made about political priorities by this Government since they were elected in 1997. Nowhere in his contribution did he reflect that whatever. It is almost as though it happened by chance because a lot of good, nice individuals made it possible. That is true, but it also happened because of the hard political and economic choices that the Government have made since they came to power.
We are not going to allow the Opposition to get away with the pretence that they have changed. We realise that they have not changed in the slightest when we see that they voted against the extra investment in the NHS
and then look at all the other policies that they advocate that will shift resources away from some of our poorest communities to some of our more affluent.
Let me address the question of the naming of the building. What happened is simple. The local health trust wrote to the Department for Constitutional Affairs and requested that the building be named in a particular way and the DCA responded to that request and the trust did not challenge it or ask for further clarification. It accepted that the name would be as it is today. If the trust, in consultation with the hon. Gentleman and other members of the local community, wishes to raise the question again, the request will be reflected upon and considered. I cannot guarantee that the name will be changed because the matter has to do with the royal family and a variety of facilities have the Queens name attached to them. However, that option is available if the trust feels strongly about the matter and wants to raise it again.
Andrew Rosindell: I thank the Minister for his clarification. Does he agree that the most sensible way of approaching the matter would have been to allow some sort of consultation to take place? It is not fair to impose a name on the local population. Surely he agrees that there should be proper consultation so that local people can have a say in the name of their local hospital.
Mr. Lewis: The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not what happened. As I understand it, the trust wrote to the DCA and asked for the name, the Queen Elizabeth II hospital. It did not consult any member of the community or local resident before it put in that request. The DCA responded by saying that it thought that a more appropriate name, in terms of the parameters of the decision making that it has to look at, would be Queens. If the trust wishes to write back to seek clarification or to ask that the matter be considered again, I am sure that the DCA would be willing to have a look at it. But he must not be disingenuousthere was no consultation with the local population about requesting the name, Queen Elizabeth II. I am offering him an option. It is not my decision; it is nothing to do with the Department of Health because it is specifically a request about using the Queens name.
A number of other points were made. The hon. Member for Castle Point raised a sensible, legitimate issue about helicopter landing, saving lives and the hospitals role as a trauma establishment. At a local level, there is a need to look at any planning restrictions that get in the way of that facility being used appropriately to save lives. One always has to maintain a balance between the quality of life of local residents and the overriding mission of whatever the local facility is. I am sure that planning matters have to be decided in consultation with the local community and with local politicians. If there are unreasonable and undesirable planning restrictions, it is certainly worth people at a local level responding to the hon. Gentlemans concerns and having a look at that.
The hon. Member for Upminster talked about it being welcome that there are no longer mixed sex wards. She rightly spoke about the importance of trying to offer maximum sensitivity to all patients, but
particularly those undergoing cancer treatment, and the families of those people. It is a traumatic experience for anybody who has to go through that, or anybody who knows people who are going through it, and so the way in which the hospital seeks to be sensitive is important. She was good enough to draw attention to the new arrangements that have been made in terms of location and accessibility in the new hospital.
The hon. Lady also referred to questions about future consultations on reconfiguration, as did the hon. Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire). We have to get to a situation where we create, at a local level, a health service infrastructure that genuinely meets clinical needs and the needs of the relevant local community. It is the responsible role of politicians to engage in those debates, not for short-term political gain, but genuinely based on how one defines clinical need and how one addresses the fact that more and more people can be and want to be treated in the community or as day patients, rather than spending an unnecessarily long time in hospital. If hon. Members can engage in the debate and the consultations in that spirit, I am sure that the outcome for their local communities will be positive rather than negative.
Recently, Members on the Opposition Front Bench have portrayed any NHS changes as cuts to services. That is disingenuous and misleading. It is simply not true. Often, when the service reconfigurations take place they lead to more investment. Without knowing the local circumstances, I can predict that when it was proposed to build a new hospital on the site and to close two existing hospitals, inevitably there were vociferous campaigns against change and in favour of the status quo. People understandably get emotionally attached to particular institutions and buildings. However, weas community leaders as much as elected politicianshave a responsibility to take a lead on these issues and to work with health professionals and managers to engage with the local community about why change is necessary and how change is best made. We need to achieve a situation in which there is authentic and real consultation, rather than a sense
that decisions have been made before there has been any engagement with the local population. In the months ahead, as the consultation exercises roll out, I hope that hon. Members will not only pursue a responsible role in relation to any changes that are proposed, but rightly demand that there is proper and authentic engagement with their constituents and local communities before any outcomes are finalised.
The hon. Member for Hornchurch raised the question of budgets. I make no apologies for the fact that we are the first Government who have been brave enough to say without blinking to the national health service that we must have budget discipline. All NHS trusts must be managed to the level of the best, with their budgets being managed responsibly within the available resources. I do not think that that should be too much to ask. Yes, that will require tough choices, but surely it is right that, like any other organisation, the NHS is expected to manage within its budget. In the past, it was wrong that NHS organisations that were run efficiently ended up, as a matter of course, bailing out NHS organisations that were not able to manage their budgets appropriately. The Governments insistence on financial discipline in NHS organisations is an extremely important step forward.
In taking the opportunity to wish hon. Members and you, Mr. Speaker, if you do not mind, a happy Christmas and a new year that people would want for themselves, may I say that it is a source of celebration that the hon. Member for Romford has a brand new, state-of-the-art hospital serving the needs of his constituents? The same applies to other hon. Members who have contributed to the debate. It has never been part of the Governments case that every single element of the NHS is perfect in hon. Members communities or nationally. However, it is right at the heart of our case that these new hospital developments have not happened by chance. They have happened as a consequence of the political priorities and choices of a Government who are investing record amounts in the national health service. As a consequence, we are rebuilding a health service that, frankly, was left in an appalling state by the Conservative party.