I am aware of the views that have been expressed on this matter. I can confirm that, having taken advice, we considered that the letter received from the Oxfordshire health overview and scrutiny committee does not constitute a valid referral under the relevant regulations. However, I have emphasised to NHS England, Oxford University Hospitals and InHealth the importance of continuing local discussions and working together at pace to find a service offer that works best for patients.
The Churchill’s PET-CT cancer scanning service is world renowned, yet NHS England, apparently with the consent of this Government, is forcing it into partnership with a private company. That is what is happening. It is not a discussion; it is being forced into a partnership. NHS England has even warned the trust against staff raising their voice on this issue because of their concerns about patient safety. Surely this unprecedented partnership is illegitimate and must be called in by this Government.
As I have said to the hon. Lady, we do not consider it to be a valid referral. What I would say is that NHS England remains committed to ensuring that the public are involved in decision making. Part of the extensive public engagement included completing a 30-day engagement about the phase 2 procurement proposals in 2016. I understand the strong passions that this has raised on both sides of the House and I urge all parties to continue working together.
I have made it clear to my constituents that, in principle, I have no objection to private companies providing NHS services, but totally legitimate concerns have been raised about the consultation involved in awarding this contract. May I simply thank the Minister for agreeing to meet Oxfordshire MPs this afternoon? I know that she is very much engaged in this issue and, although it may not technically be overseen by the Department of Health and Social Care, I know that she will do all she can to help us to reach a solution.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. I am looking forward to the meeting this afternoon. As I have said, I am assured that the decision will maintain services in Oxford and that there will be improved patient access, with new scanners in Milton Keynes and Swindon for people living there as well.
Surely the reason we have got to this point is that the clinical commissioning group was never actually consulted on what was right for the local population. How can the Minister ensure that, in future, centralised procurement services and local CCGs are always consulted as a matter of course?
As I have said, there has been engagement with local people, Members of Parliament and the local health community. I think that the outcome that we are all looking for is good PET-CT scanners for the people in Oxfordshire and for the whole of Thames Valley.