HC Deb 06 December 1994 vol 251 cc133-4
7. Mr. Gordon Prentice

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will set up an inquiry into recent events at the Burnley Healthcare NHS Trust.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Tom Sackville)

No. The trust must be allowed to concentrate on treating patients under the leadership of its new chairman, Dr. J. F. Archer.

Mr. Prentice

Does the Minister appreciate that people will be dismayed by that answer? in saying that, I speak not only for my hon. Friends the Members for Burnley (Mr. Pike) and for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms Anderson), but for the community health council, the Royal College of Nursing and many others. Was not what happened at Burnley Healthcare NHS Trust an utter fiasco, with macho management, no accountability and no transparency? Is it not clear that an independent inquiry is needed to prove that what happened there is not symptomatic of the new market-driven NHS, where the first duty of doctors is, allegedly, to the organisation and not to their patients?

Mr. Sackville

I agree that there have been uniquely regrettable incidents, but a new chairman and a new chief executive are in post. If the hon. Gentleman is interested in the welfare of patients and staff, which I sometimes doubt, he will want to ensure that the trust returns to a period of stability, with no further allegations or counter-allegations.

Mr. Nigel Evans

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is shameful for Opposition Members to try to play politics with this issue? Burnley has had a local difficulty, but recognition should be given to the fine record that the Burnley Healthcare NHS Trust achieved in 12 months, with nine five-star and five four-star ratings in the summer performance league tables. It was the first trust in the north-west to have no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. Opposition Members should concentrate on those things and not just rubbish the NHS trusts.

Mr. Sackville

I congratulate the trust on maintaining its excellent standards during these difficult times. I hope that the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) and his hon. Friends will help the trust to get back to normal.

Mr. Nicholas Brown

I am sure that the Minister will accept that rows of this sort are debilitating for health care workers. Will he also accept that they are turning out to be increasingly expensive for the NHS? The latest £250,000 pay-off will be seen by many people as an inappropriate use of public funds, particularly when set alongside criticisms of the Minister's Department from the district auditor, the Audit Commission and the Public Accounts Committee in investigating similar incidents. Has it occurred to the Minister that the source of misuse of public money might be the reforms themselves, which are turning out to be more expensive and less efficient and, are in fact, encouraging conflict and corruption?

Mr. Sackville

The performance of the trust—what it has done for patients—speaks for itself. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the payment made was in accordance with the former chief executive's contract.

Mr. Ian Bruce

My hon. Friend will know that I stood as a candidate in Burnley almost a decade ago, when there was a great deal of disquiet about the length of time that people were waiting for treatment. Will he confirm that many more patients are being treated now, due to the adoption of trust status, than when I stood in Burnley?

Mr. Sackville

I have no doubt that my hon. Friend made a very strong impression on Burnley. I can confirm that there have been enormous benefits for the people of Burnley from trust status.