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Community Hospitals and Services

Volume 459: debated on Tuesday 24 April 2007

We are committed to community hospitals when they represent the best solutions for local communities. To support that, we have set up a five-year £750 million programme to promote the development of community hospitals and services. To date, we have allocated around £100 million to 14 different schemes. Decisions are outstanding on a further 18 schemes.

Bringing community care and health care closer to individuals will have a profound effect on their lives, ensuring that people live longer and healthier lives. The PCTs have a vital role to play in that. Will my hon. Friend join me in condemning the Lib-Dem council in Brent—also known as the Fib-Dem council—

Order. The Minister will not do that. Perhaps he will answer the first part of the question.

It is tempting to do as my hon. Friend asks, and I would like to, Mr. Speaker. However, perhaps I shall simply say that I agree with her that patients support the move to provide more and extended services in the heart of communities, including those in London. That comes through time and again in all the consultations that the Department has carried out.

Does the Minister agree that minor injury units are an essential part of community hospitals but that the services provided are often cut, as are the hours of opening? Will he ensure that community hospitals are adequately funded to ensure a consistency of service for minor injury units and look into standardising those services in order to ensure that when people go to such units, they know what services they are going to get?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Minor injury units are an important part of the 10 community hospital schemes that I announced recently. I agree that PCTs should take a view locally on where those schemes can help to fill an identifiable need. That is precisely the sort of scheme that we want. In looking further at the range of schemes recently approved, I found that many are very innovative and are offering new kinds of services to communities that have often had poor to patchy general practice in the past. It is all about bringing better and extended services to communities that have not benefited from such services in the past.

May I thank my hon. Friend for his recent announcement about the building of a new primary care centre in Rotherham? Does he accept that that will not only provide patient services seven days a week, but will have further benefits to services in the acute sector? Does he also agree that those reconfigured services in the NHS are improving the level of service to patients and should be welcomed by everyone and not cried against by Opposition Members every time we attempt to improve patient services?

The points that my right hon. Friend makes about the links between pressure on accident and emergency departments and acute hospitals generally are extremely well made. The scheme that we recently put forward and approved in his constituency includes a walk-in centre and a minor injuries unit. It also includes access to diagnostic facilities, dietary services, physiotherapy and audiology, so it truly provides a step forward for my right hon. Friend’s community. He is absolutely right that the beauty and benefit of those schemes is that they can take the pressure off local acute hospitals and give patients another option rather than trekking into accident and emergency as the only available option for treatment.