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Local Improvement Finance Trust Schemes

Volume 458: debated on Tuesday 13 March 2007

It is for Leicester City primary care trust to determine its plans for LIFT schemes by developing its strategic service development plan. I am pleased to confirm that it has already opened three new buildings to patients, with another two under construction, and five more in the planning stages.

I welcome the Government’s huge investment in our health service in Leicester, but what explanation can I give to my constituent, Mr. Mark Golding, whom I met on Saturday and who is suffering from a double hernia? He has waited four months for an operation, even though his surgeon told him that he would have to wait only three months. I do not propose that the Minister or the Secretary of State should conduct hernia operations themselves; in fact, we are grateful to them for not doing so, but how can we convince our constituents that we are making a huge investment when they still have to wait for operations—in my constituent’s case, in agony?

I am pleased that my right hon. Friend is absolving me from personal responsibility. The only kind of doctor that I have ever been is a spin doctor, as he knows, and I would not trust anyone’s care to me. I know that he raised his constituent’s case at business questions last week, and I am informed that the waiting time targets have not been breached, as the case is being treated as routine, rather than urgent. If his information is different from that, I recommend that he bring it to the attention of his primary care trust. More broadly, on LIFT, in his constituency investment has been made in the Humberstone health centre and the Charnwood health and social care centre, and I believe that there are plans for a Belgrave health and social care centre. That is a huge investment in the primary care infrastructure in his constituency, and it will bring benefits not only to patients such as the gentleman whom he mentioned, but far more broadly.

Will the local improvement finance trust schemes have any bearing on the pathway project for the future of Leicester hospitals, and what should I tell my constituents now that the east and north wards in Hinckley and District hospital have been shut? Does the Minister think that the LIFT schemes will stretch across the county from Leicester and touch Hinckley?

The service at Hinckley is, of course, a matter for local decision, but there is an interrelationship between the facilities that are being developed through LIFT in the city of Leicester and the hospital’s trust, because LIFT allows for the development of services much closer to the patient’s home. Services that were traditionally provided in a hospital setting may now be delivered in local communities, because of the high quality of the facilities being built in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) and elsewhere. Getting the infrastructure right, so that there is a secondary service, surrounded by high-quality facilities in the community, is a matter for local decision making.

The Minister is an honest, shrewd and talented man. How convinced is he that handing over long-term, exclusive contracts to the private sector, so that it owns, manages and finances public infrastructure and services, represents good value for patients and taxpayers, given that there is a growing body of evidence that points in precisely the opposite direction?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s generous comments at the beginning of his question, and I hope that I can assure him that there is a process locally, whereby each scheme is tested and signed off by the district valuer. Before the scheme proceeds, it needs to be clear that it represents good value for money in the long term. LIFT schemes are a different way of funding primary care facilities; they deliver facilities that could not have been delivered under the old ways of funding, because they bring together a broader range of partners, who invest in something far better than GPs or primary care practitioners operating alone could ever have built. There are persuasive and compelling arguments in favour of the LIFT model, because LIFT schemes are transforming health care in some of the most deprived communities, including inner-city communities, of the country.

Will the Minister ask for an audit of LIFT schemes in the Leicester area and elsewhere to assess the number of projects that have been able to incorporate energy-generating systems, rainwater harvesting or recycling measures in their design? Given that they make a fundamental contribution to climate change measures, it is disappointing that we have experienced so much difficulty in getting those schemes accepted as part of the design brief, so it would be useful for the House to know how successful we have been.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is fair to say that some LIFT schemes have made a considerable step forward in incorporating energy efficiency measures into their design, but others could have done better. That is an honest response to his question. The health service must make sure that the people who make decisions on procurement have energy efficiency and environmental issues at the top of their concerns as well as the provision of the highest-quality facilities offering modern health care services. My hon. Friend is therefore right to push us on that point. I will take an interest in the way in which LIFT schemes that are under development pay attention to energy efficiency, and I will write to him on the subject.