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Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 19 April 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

When they expect to replace the obsolete buildings which currently accommodate the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital at Stanmore.

My Lords, a revised outline business case for the redevelopment of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital site has been submitted to the NHS London strategic health authority. The SHA is working with the hospital and my department to ensure that an affordable business case is put forward. The SHA hopes to make an announcement in the next few months, once it has considered the business case.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Will he confirm that this hospital, a national centre of excellence, is located in buildings that were built with a life expectancy of 15 years during World War II? Will he confirm that during the past 10 years there have been a number of strategic reviews, the most recent of which described the hospital as the jewel in the crown of the NHS? Will the Minister do everything in his power to ensure that a decision is made in the very near future?

Yes, my Lords, I recognise the excellence of the work undertaken at the RNOH and the inadequacy of the facilities. I can assure the noble Lord that I will press the London SHA to come to a decision as soon as possible. The problem with the previous bids is that they were deemed unaffordable. The hospital trust has now put forward a more modest, scaled-down proposal, which is being seriously considered.

My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Laming. I declare an historical interest as the former Member in another place for the constituency in which the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital is based and attest to its superb achievements over many years. Is the Minister aware of the need to maintain its functions and the way in which it is supported not just emotionally but practically by many people in the area and elsewhere? This hospital is indispensable.

My Lords, I speak as someone with an interest in this splendid hospital, having received expert treatment from its wonderful staff. Will the Minister visit the huts in which those staff now work and have worked since the 1950s? This is supposed to be a jewel in the crown of the National Health Service, but the huts of the Stanmore hospital, in which miracles are performed, are a disgrace and should be ended as soon as possible. Will he see that that is done as a matter of urgency?

My Lords, I have already said that I will ensure that the London SHA comes to a decision as quickly as possible about this hospital. I am well aware that it has taken time and that unsuccessful bids have been put forward. It will set a terrible precedent if I say that I will visit the hospital, but I assure the noble Lord that I know the work of the RNOH and am aware of the inadequacy of its facilities. As I said, we have to come to a decision which is affordable for the NHS, but I will ensure that the SHA is pressed to come to a decision as soon as possible.

My Lords, I declare an interest as another patient of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and sing its praises. Perhaps I may widen the debate somewhat. Given what has happened with regard to decision-making over the hospital and the disaster relating to the Paddington site, at what stage will we see some kind of strategic plan from the London strategic health authority for the renewal of buildings on the London estate that are impossible to work in?

My Lords, it is worth remarking that the NHS is in the middle of the biggest capital expansion that it has ever seen, with well over 100 new hospitals either having been built or in the process of being built. With regard to the London strategic issue, I commend a report by Professor Darzi, who has been asked to give advice and leadership to the London SHA in this area. London presents a very mixed picture. It has within it some of the highest-quality health provision in the world, of which we should all be very proud, and, in other parts, inadequate services and facilities. For far too long—20 or 30 years—decisions have not been taken. It is essential that we have the leadership and vision to ensure that all Londoners benefit from the quality of services now available in some parts of London. We think that the Darzi review, which is essentially about a clinically led understanding of the best service provision, is the foundation on which to deal with the issues raised by the noble Baroness.

My Lords, can the Minister explain the meaning of his answer to the previous question, when he said that a visit to this hospital would set a dangerous precedent? Is he saying that he will not visit any hospital because it might set a precedent or just that he will not visit this one; and, if not, why not?

My Lords, of course I frequently visit hospitals, but if all noble Lords were to get up at Question Time and ask me to visit particular hospitals, that would set a dangerous precedent. I made it clear that I well understand the issues facing the RNOH. I know of the excellent work being undertaken and I should have thought that noble Lords would recognise that I take a close interest in the progress being made.

My Lords, in the Minister’s conversations with the SHA, will he ensure that it recognises that the replacement for this hospital should provide not only the best possible care but also the facilities that will be required for training and education? The RNOH currently trains 10 to 15 per cent of all future consultants in orthopaedic surgery.

My Lords, of course that is right. I am sure that the noble Lord would acknowledge the Government’s efforts to increase the number of consultants and the drastic reduction in waiting times for orthopaedic treatment apparent in the RNOH and orthopaedic services generally. I assure him that this hospital’s commitment to teaching and research will be fully taken into account by the London SHA.