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Kidderminster Hospital

Volume 408: debated on Tuesday 1 July 2003

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If he will make a visit to inspect the new diagnostic and treatment centre at Kidderminster hospital when it is completed next year.␣[122416]

Phase 1 of the Kidderminster diagnostic and treatment centre will open in December 2003 and it is scheduled to be fully operational by April 2004. I can certainly promise to visit the centre, because I want to thank the delivery team for the excellent work that it is doing on this important project.

May I thank the Minister for his reply and welcome him to his seat, as well as the whole team for their first session of Health questions?

Given the threat to hospitals throughout the country from the European working time directive and the struggle that hospital staff now have to maintain continuity of care, will the Minister ensure that the diagnostic and treatment centre at Kidderminster, which, like others, is distant from the acute general hospital that serves it, can provide medical cover through a reasonable selection of intermediate elective surgery to meet the needs of the local community and tackle waiting list problems in the wider area?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for welcoming me to the Dispatch Box.

Yes, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall take a keen interest in the way in which that particular diagnostic centre works. We shall take on board the issues that he raises about the challenges posed by the working time directive. I think that he can be reasonably confident that the centre will be very popular locally. Past experience suggests a 98 per cent. rate of satisfaction with such centres, and I have no reason to believe that his centre will be any less successful.

I welcome the Minister to his duties.

Will the diagnostic and treatment centre at Kidderminster have a system for ensuring that the profits of the operator are returned to the NHS and shared with it, and that there will be a cap on the number of private patients that it takes? Will that be the practice generally for all other diagnostic and treatment centres?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his welcome.

The Kidderminster diagnostic centre is an NHS centre, so the issues that my hon. Friend raised will not be of concern there. On the general issue that he raised, I shall certainly reflect on his comments. If he wishes to talk to me about his concerns, I shall be happy to discuss them with him.

May I, too, welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box?

Will the Minister reflect carefully on the wise words of the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Dr. Taylor)? The previous Secretary of State for Health told me that there was a capacity problem in the Worcestershire health economy. That is certainly the case, and it means long waiting lists and lots of problems for patients. The centre at Kidderminster is a very important part of the solution to that problem and I hope that he will reflect carefully on what the hon. Gentleman said.

The hon. Gentleman is right; the diagnostic centre will be a very important part of building that capacity and getting waiting lists down. I welcome the interest that he has taken in this matter and in the general issues of the local health economy. However, if we are to tackle the issues that he raises, we must do so by getting investment into the national health service, and not cutting it.

May I add my congratulations to the Minister?

Will the Government use a standard tariff for treatments carried out at centres such as Kidderminster and other centres around the country, or will privately run centres be able to charge the NHS more for the same procedures?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome.

I am afraid that I have to admit that I have no idea about that matter, but I shall look at it very carefully in the coming days, and I shall certainly respond to the hon. Gentleman. What I can tell him is that the Kidderminster centre is being set up with the full cooperation of the local primary care trust and strategic health authority. We expect it to have a strong impact on local waiting times and we have no reason to believe that in the fullness of time it will not prove to be an extremely successful operation.