§ 10. Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)
If he will make a statement on the proposed merger of health trusts in Lincolnshire. 
§ The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Denham)
Ministers are currently considering a proposal from NHS Executive Trent to carry out a public consultation on a possible merger of the three Lincolnshire acute trusts: Grantham and District Hospital NHS trust, Lincoln and Louth NHS trust and Pilgrim Health NHS trust.
§ Mr. Leigh
As he sits in London, does the Minister understand the real fear and concern of rural people that, as these mergers continue, it is the rural hinterlands that will suffer? People from those areas may lose their places 456 on the boards, and small hospitals, such as Gainsborough, will not receive the same level of commitment and energy that they enjoyed when they had their own health trusts.
§ Mr. Denham
We would never proceed with a merger of trusts unless we were convinced that patient care would benefit as a result. In addition to that overall criterion, we have set down some important tests, one of which is that mergers between NHS trusts would be expected to realise a minimum of £500,000 in bureaucracy savings within the first two years of going ahead. That money would be available for investment in front-line services. Trusts will not be forced to merge; the test is whether they would improve patient care. Clearly. that test must apply for all the patients whom they serve—not merely for some of them.