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Local Improvement Finance Trust Scheme

Volume 456: debated on Tuesday 6 February 2007

8. What assessment she has made of the NHS local improvement finance trust scheme; and if she will make a statement. (118591)

The NHS LIFT scheme is delivering modern surgery facilities that co-locate a range of services offered in the heart of deprived communities. To date, 107 super-surgeries have opened under the LIFT scheme and a further 80 are under construction. Throughout 2006, on average one facility opened every week—a rate of progress we expect to continue throughout 2007.

I thank the Minister for that reply. In my constituency, the LIFT centre in Stapleford serves 18,500 of my constituents—nearly a quarter of the whole constituency—with a range of services from health to dentistry to social services and many others that were not available locally before. In my last question at Health questions, I asked Ministers about the difficult reorganisation of secondary services in Nottingham. In this question, I ask the Minister to reinforce success. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) says, prevention is better than cure; let us reinforce the primary health sector.

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. The Stapleford care centre scheme is an excellent example of the success story that is LIFT. It has quietly got on with investing £1.2 billion in some of the most deprived communities in the country, which often have the poorest primary care services, and is delivering for constituents such as those of my hon. Friend. The extra time that we have allowed Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust may provide breathing space which will allow staff to work in the new community facilities that have been created in my hon. Friend’s constituency and others nearby.

The maternity unit in Oswestry closed last Wednesday, and there is huge public pressure for it to be reopened as a demountable unit. Would LIFT funds be relevant to such an operation? I shall be visiting the strategic health authority tomorrow; would the Minister like to ring the chairman and chief executive before my meeting?

I commend the hon. Gentleman on his opportunism, but LIFT relates to primary care facilities throughout the country. We have heard him make his point about his constituency, but I think he should be focusing his attention on what his party will do to improve primary care in the same way as the Government.

How does the 30 per cent. increase in capital funding for PCTs fit in with the LIFT scheme? Should the Government not be focusing investment much more on dental practices, so that areas such as Biddulph in my constituency can have new NHS dental surgeries?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Only today we announced £60 million of capital for primary care trusts across the country to invest in improving dental facilities for communities like my hon. Friend’s, and her PCT will benefit from the extra cash.

The truth is that more dentists and more GPs are working in our communities. There is more to be done to ensure that people everywhere have access to the highest-quality primary care services, but we have a strategy to provide new buildings through the LIFT scheme and recruit extra staff to work in some of the most deprived communities in this country.

What is the Minister doing to ensure that the exclusivity given to LIFT companies is not deterring or deferring other interested investors from building new GP surgeries, community hospitals and other core services in LIFTCo areas?

The hon. Gentleman makes the point very well. A mixture of investment is being made in primary care: LIFT is one example, but other forms of finance are also improving primary care facilities. What is important is not the means by which funds are delivered, but ensuring that facilities are built quickly so that we can rapidly improve primary care in communities—particularly those that need enhanced primary care services—and prevent the ill health to which Labour Members have referred.