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1 May 2007 : Column 448WH—continued

1 May 2007 : Column 449WH

Caroline Flint: As I was saying, I would have expected the strategic health authority to be informed before any announcement was made regarding the bid and the Department of Health to be notified. It is unfortunate that that was not done, but the strategic health authority and the Department of Health are now helping to make sure that we get the figures right. The officials in the Department and the strategic health authority are playing a constructive role, which is a world away from the very party political basis of some campaign literature issued during the local elections. In the “Focus” leaflet to which I have referred and, I understand, in other leaflets and letters the headline has been that the Labour Government are axing plans. That is a complete misrepresentation and is disgraceful.

Children’s services in hospitals and in communities are a major priority for us. On 15 March, the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh, announced a consultation on the future of payment by results. That will look at the future financing of specialised services, including children’s services, under payment by results. That is important because it will set out what currently happens, but also seek to ensure that services that are so important to children and their families, and to clinicians who provide their expertise and devotion, are rewarded fairly. The consultation will also set out future options to ensure sustainability. As well as having buildings, it is important that there is the finance and throughput to ensure that services can be developed and invested in.

The consultation will touch directly on services such as those that Leeds aspires to provide through a dedicated children’s and maternity hospital. We want to look at how that aspiration can be converted into reality for the children and parents of Leeds and west Yorkshire. With our colleagues at the strategic health authority, we will look at some of the figures that the trust has identified to determine how realistic they are. We will identify ways in which we can be clear about what are extra costs and what can be dealt with in other ways.

Mr. Fabian Hamilton: Does my hon. Friend agree that the only way to get a children’s hospital in Leeds is to stop trying to use the issue to score party political points? Opposition parties in Leeds should refrain from doing that and work together with the rest of us to achieve that goal.

Caroline Flint: I agree with my hon. Friend. These are not impersonal issues. I imagine and know the daily
1 May 2007 : Column 450WH
pain that campaigners are experiencing as parents of sick children—they are not detached from the issue. We must be careful in the language that we use and the impression that we give as it may unduly create fears and distract us from getting on with the job, which is to sort out the figures with the trust and ensure that they are correct and fit for purpose. That is the constructive approach and, dare I say it, the responsible approach to tackling complex issues, which should not be made more complex, frightening or stressful for those who are most closely involved.

Ultimately, the people on the ground in Leeds must be the ones who make the plan work. The rigorous process that the strategic health authority has now launched is one that should have been undertaken locally before any unexpected announcement was made. That point has been clearly made. Discussions should have been held with parents, health professionals and all the other people who are committed to the project. I have no doubt about the huge amount of support among those people.

I know that there is some concern among parent campaigners that the project has grown well beyond the original children’s hospital scheme that was presented in 2004. Part of the job that we now have is to work out how much of that was bound to happen because that is what happens with such projects, and how much relates to other issues that may need closer attention. The plan includes changes to a wide range of adult and community services in the city. The trust says it has also included a huge car park to meet the concerns of the city council. There is a sizeable extra amount included in its figures to cover possible changes in costs over time, which is also the subject of some debate. All those aspects need to be fully examined. The NHS in Leeds will be doing its job to ensure that it meets its next deadline for the outline business case approval by the end of next year.

Plans for a Leeds children’s and maternity hospital have not been cancelled. It is the ambition of the strategic health authority, the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Leeds primary care trust to centre children’s services on one new site in the city. Those are the stated aims of the “Making Leeds Better” programme and I understand that that remains the case. Only after full public consultation will a final decision be taken on the future of services in Leeds.

It being Two o’clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the sitting lapsed, without Question put.

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