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NHS Finance (Oxfordshire)

Volume 456: debated on Tuesday 6 February 2007

7. What assessment she has made of the number and nature of reductions in clinical and care services that may be required to achieve financial balance in the NHS in Oxfordshire. (118590)

I am surprised that the Minister is unable to make an assessment about the service cuts, because Oxfordshire primary care trust has been forced to create restrictions, including those on consultant-to-consultant referrals, and on so-called low-priority treatments for hernias. It is now looking at placing restrictions on hysterectomy, tonsillectomy and D and C procedures. As someone who voted for the increased resources that the Government put in, and for the tax rises involved, will the Minister now explain what “elective stretch” is? Will he confirm that it involves forcing people to wait up to the maximum waiting time, as is now being proposed in Oxfordshire? That is not what we envisaged when the Government were talking about reducing waiting times.

Does the hon. Gentleman welcome—I should like him to nod if he does, if that is allowed—the 17 per cent. increase in allocation for revenue over two years in his PCT area? Does he welcome today’s announcement of an additional £1.4 million capital in his local PCT infrastructure, which is an increase from £1.1 million last year? It is not Liberal Democratic policy to spend one additional penny on the national health service—

Will my hon. Friend join me in praising the accomplishment of staff at all levels in the NHS in Oxfordshire, not only in reducing the deficit, but in starting up the wonderful new children’s hospital that we have alongside £100 million of new investment to extend services relocated from the Radcliffe infirmary? Are not those achievements of which the NHS and the local community can truly be proud?

At last, a right hon. Member who is talking up the national health service and paying tribute to the everyday heroes—the professionals on the front line—who are making a difference to the quality of patients’ lives. The reality is that much of the redirection of resources in local health economies is leading to enhanced services, resulting in services that patients need and want. I am proud of the fact that we treat children in our national health service no longer as little adults but as children, and ensure that they have access to the specialist services that they need and deserve.

Many of the changes in Oxfordshire that are causing concern are not cost driven; they are seemingly driven by a desire to centralise. Labour’s manifesto at the last general election promised that mothers would have greater choice. If the recommendations of the Shribman report, published today, are followed through, that will reduce choice for mothers and threaten many valued maternity units, such as that at the Horton general hospital in Banbury. Why are this Government so hellbent on centralising NHS services?

What women and fathers tell us they want from the whole experience of antenatal care, post-natal care and the actual birth is choice. That choice is home birth, or the opportunity to have the birth at a maternity-led unit or a consultant-led unit. What is important in every community is that we make a reality of that choice for home-based birth, midwife-led birth and consultant-led birth. When we produce our plan to deliver our commitment that by 2009 every parent in every community will have access to that choice, the hon. Gentleman will finally understand that we are responding to what parents tell us they want.

Some of my constituents have written to me to say that they cannot get vital cancer treatments on the NHS in Oxfordshire, but now have the opportunity to travel and make use of addresses in Scotland, where such treatments are free. What advice, encouragement or support can the Minister offer such patients?

Does the hon. Gentleman support the role of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, because the Conservative party needs to make that clear? How dare he talk about cancer care when waiting lists and waiting times are at record low levels? The scandal was that too many people died unnecessarily because of the disinvestment in the health service under the Conservatives.