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NHS Decision Making

Volume 512: debated on Tuesday 29 June 2010

11. What steps his Department is taking to increase participation by local people in NHS decision making. (4469)

I have stopped top-down reconfigurations where the NHS has not listened to local people. Our coalition agreement is clear that we will give patients more control over their own health care, and give patients and the public a stronger voice in the design of local health and care services.

NHS managers have justified cuts in community hospitals in Walton, Cobham, Molesey and other parts of the country on efficiency grounds, but in 2009, because of targets, almost 1 million patients were discharged and then readmitted within 30 days, at a cost of £1.6 billion. What plans has the Secretary of State to strengthen local democratic control over community hospitals and the vital services that they provide?

My hon. Friend has raised an important issue. Let me make two points. First, we need to strengthen not only the local public and patient voice but the voices of GPs who are involved in commissioning, so that they can act on behalf of their patient population in commissioning the services, and design of services, that they need. Secondly, as I have made clear in the revision of the operating framework, we must look at results. When someone goes into hospital for treatment, we must consider not just their treatment in the hospital, but their subsequent rehabilitation and re-ablement. I believe that that will allow greater use of intermediate care beds in the way that my hon. Friend has described.

I thank the Secretary of State for agreeing to meet me—together with representatives of my local primary care trusts, local mums and midwives—to discuss maternity services in Salford. In the light of his new criteria for reconfigurations, will he confirm that he is prepared to reconsider the decision to close Salford’s maternity services, and to recognise the views of thousands of people throughout Salford and Eccles, including me, who opposed it at the time?

The right hon. Lady knows that we will meet to discuss the issue. However, as I said when I was in Greater Manchester, it is not for me to reconsider the application of the new criteria from 21 May. That is for local people to reconsider. It is for GPs, the public, local authorities and, indeed, PCTs in Salford and district to start thinking about what they consider to be viable and successful future services for mothers-to-be.

In helping local people to become more involved in NHS decision making, will my right hon. Friend agree to consider my Ambulance Response Times (Local Reporting) Bill, which received its Second Reading during the last Parliament? The Bill requires all ambulance trusts to publish local as well as regional response times and patient outcomes so that—as is already the case in Crewe and Nantwich—they have access to those details and can deliver better response times, with the help of local initiatives such as Community First Responders.