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Gastro-intestinal Cancer Treatment

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 13 November 2007

5. What discussions he has had on the centralisation of upper gastro-intestinal cancer services in Devon; and if he will make a statement. (162934)

My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw), in his capacity as a local constituency MP, has passed on concerns raised by his constituents. The organisation of services is best decided locally, and the Devon overview and scrutiny committee has recommended formal consultation on the proposals.

The Minister will be well aware of the well regarded provision of keyhole surgery in the treatment of gastro-intestinal cancer, as performed by the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital. He will also be aware that in his NHS next stage review interim report, Lord Darzi states:

“Localise where possible, centralise where necessary.”

Does the Minister not agree that it is quite unnecessary to move the provision of that treatment from Exeter to Plymouth, and will he hold urgent discussions with the Devon primary care trust to point out the error of its ways?

No final decision has been made. The local authority has said that, even before it decides whether to refer the matter to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, it wants to consult locally. I urge the hon. Gentleman to engage fully in that consultation, which will take place before any final decision is made. I should also point out that there is a contradiction in saying that it is inappropriate for the Government to issue central diktats and directions from Westminster and Whitehall while demanding central Government intervention in local decision making.

I will, Mr. Speaker.

When considering the reconfiguration of gastro-intestinal cancer services in Devon and, indeed, elsewhere, will the Minister bear in mind the innovative straight-to-test GI cancer assessment service pioneered by Dr. Madhotra at Milton Keynes, which has drastically cut the time taken to get patients through diagnostic services? That is clearly relevant to the examination of GI cancer services everywhere.

That was ingenious and innovative, like the doctor my hon. Friend mentions. Her point is incredibly important, because it underlines the fact that developments in medicine and technology and the genius of clinicians are changing the health service all the time, so to maintain services as they were before those changes occurred would be a complete nonsense. That is why calling for a moratorium on any change in the NHS is irresponsible.