HC Deb 27 January 1998 vol 305 cc139-40
11. Angela Smith

What proposals he has for promoting shared responsibility between NHS trusts for local services. [23423]

Mr. Milburn

The plans in the recent White Paper "The New NHS" herald the end of competition within the national health service. We plan to introduce a new statutory duty of partnership that will clearly set the requirement for NHS trusts to work together with each other, with other health service organisations and with other local agencies responsible for promoting good health.

Angela Smith

I welcome my hon. Friend's answer. However, does he share my concern that the South Essex health authority—despite the extra £17 million that the Government have given to it—is still implementing wide-ranging cuts in front-line services? If health authorities and trusts will follow the line described by the Minister, they could raise the necessary money by efficiency savings and not by cuts.

Mr. Milburn

When any of those issues are discussed locally, it is important that the consequences for patient care are thoroughly investigated. The Government want big improvements in efficiency and quality in all parts of the national health service—which is why we will be bearing down on bureaucracy and why we are introducing a new performance framework to measure how individual trusts and health authorities are performing. In short, we will be expecting trusts to be comparing rather than competing.

Mr. Rowe

Is the Minister aware that the Kent and Canterbury hospital in east Kent has developed services with two other hospitals—William Harvey hospital, in Ashford, and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother hospital, in Margate—which have reached a standard that the Royal Colleges greatly applaud? Is he further aware that the East Kent health authority now proposes to destroy the central hospital in that co-operation? Will he give an assurance that when, as is certain to happen, the community health council applies to the Secretary of State for a review, he will take those admirable developments—which he commends in principle—into account?

Mr. Milburn

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, consultation is currently under way in east Kent, led by the health authority. If, as he expects, any of the area's community health councils object to the results of that consultation and they land on Ministers' desks, of course we will take a proper and full assessment of the consequence for patient care.