HC Deb 06 July 1993 vol 228 cc170-1
4. Mr. Streeter

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made regarding plans for a specialist cardiac unit at Plymouth.

Mr. Sackville

I understand that South Western regional health authority has asked local health districts to prepare a business case for the development of a cardiac surgery unit at Derriford hospital in Plymouth.

Mr. Streeter

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that it is simply not acceptable for people living in Plymouth, which is the 14th largest city in the country, to have to travel 120 miles to Bristol or 240 miles to London for cardiac treatment? Does that not further show the urgent need to reallocate the surplus capacity in London's specialty services to ensure that those vital facilities are available for the regions where they are badly needed and would be warmly welcomed?

Mr. Sackville

I have visited my hon. Friend's constituency and talked to some of the patients at Derriford hospital who have had to travel large distances and I am aware of the problem. However, my hon. Friend should be aware that a decision on a cardiac unit is not taken lightly: the unit must be of a certain size. He will be aware also that, of those patients currently treated at Bristol, some will continue to be referred to Bristol and others may well continue to be referred to Oxford or London. Before any such decision can be taken, it has to be proved that there will be a sufficient number of referrals to a new cardiac unit.

Mr. Jamieson

Is the Minister aware that the incidence of heart disease in the Plymouth health authority area is among the highest in the country, yet that is one of the few areas of England without a dedicated unit to carry out angioplasty and bypass operations? As hundreds of people are travelling from Devon and Cornwall each year for cardiac treatment in London and Bristol, will the hon. Gentleman now give urgent consideration to providing funds so that such a unit can be set up in Plymouth without further delay?

Mr. Sackville

The hon. Gentleman should not pretend that it has been a matter of resources. It has been a matter of the need to refer to a suitable centre. He will know, perhaps, that the region is intending to cater for 316 coronary artery bypass grafts per million population. That is above the national average of 300. That increase may justify a new centre.

Mr. Harris

Does my hon. Friend appreciate the fact that a cardiac unit in Plymouth would serve not only Plymouth and that part of Devon but Cornwall? It is a long day's march from Cornwall to London, as I and other hon. Members from Cornwall know. It is also a long distance from my constituency to Bristol. Will my hon. Friend examine that matter with urgency and sympathy?

Mr. Sackville

The long distances are a major factor. It would appear that, if there is to be a second centre, the most suitable location would be Plymouth.