HC Deb 16 April 1996 vol 275 cc503-4
11. Mr. Atkins

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received about the Audit Commission report on accident and emergency departments of hospitals in Lancashire. [23474]

Mr. Horam

We have received three letters on this subject.

Mr. Atkins

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Audit Commission is independent of his Department; that its report on accident and emergency hospitals is not Government policy; and that hospitals in Chorley, Preston and Ormskirk can keep their A and E departments for as long as they want?

Mr. Horam

Indeed, I am happy to confirm my hon. Friend's statement. The Audit Commission confirmed exactly that in a press release a few days after the report was published and it was further amplified by North West region in relation to my hon. Friend's hospitals. As he will be aware, his constituency is extremely well served by the Royal Preston hospital, Chorley and district hospital, which is new, and Ormskirk and district general hospital. He omitted to mention the formidable performance of the Lancashire ambulance service, which is, I believe, reaching 97.7 per cent. of its patients in the 19-minute response time. My hon. Friend has an excellent NHS service in his area. I am sure that he will put that across in his own inimitable way.

Rev. Martin Smyth

I appreciate and welcome the Minister's positive response about Lancashire, but has the Audit Commission investigated the growth in the number of people who are seeking to use A and E services throughout the whole kingdom, as we are getting complaints that there is not sufficient provision? Is he satisfied that the Government have taken a United Kingdom view on that, not only his own remit in England but throughout the kingdom, or is—

Madam Speaker

Order. I know that the hon. Gentleman has been seeking to speak during Question Time but he is widening the question considerably—it relates only to Lancashire.

Mr. Dover

Is it not far better to leave the purchasing and providing authorities to sort out exactly what is required for accident and emergency services, taking local needs into account?

Mr. Horam

My hon. Friend is entirely right: such decisions should be made by health authorities. The Audit Commission's work was a sensible piece of research, but it was carried out on a national, hypothetical basis, and we always expect account to be taken of local factors.