HC Deb 22 January 2002 vol 378 cc746-8
16. Mr. Fabian Hamilton (Leeds, North-East)

If he will make a statement on the reconfiguration of hospital services in Leeds. [26375]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ms Hazel Blears)

The creation of the single Leeds teaching hospitals NHS trust in 1998 provided an opportunity to improve service configuration across the city. Two major capital schemes are in PFI procurement: a major new wing at St James's university hospital to house mainly cancer services, and the redevelopment of Wharfedale general hospital at Otley.

Mr. Hamilton

Does my hon. Friend agree that the already excellent oncology services based on the St. James's university hospital site are in urgent need of upgrading, and that it is important that the PFI scheme that is currently on the books be moved on quickly, so that the services provided to the citizens of Leeds and outlying areas can be extended to the whole of west Yorkshire and beyond?

Ms Blears

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The new wing proposed at St. James's is a £160 million PFI scheme. I understand that building is to start in mid-2003 and that it will open at the end of 2006. It is crucial that swift and effective progress be made with the scheme, which is in line with our national priorities to Modernise cancer services and to make sure that people, wherever they live, have access to the highest-quality services for such an important aspect of care.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

Although the Minister is right to focus the Government's attention on that form of specialisation, does she share my concern that even if the patients are not travelling, the specialists are, as they move between three different hospitals—Harrogate, Leeds and York? Does she not see enormous difficulties in that?

Ms Blears

It is always a case of achieving a balance between the need to provide centres of excellence and local access to facilities, and either patients or consultants have to travel. It is for the local health community to design the optimal service for local people. It is right, however, that specialists and consultants should travel to see patients if that is the appropriate way to organise the system. That problem is yet more evidence of the need to reform the way in which services work. We need to put patients at the centre and design the service around their needs rather than around those of the professionals or of the system itself, as happened all too often in the past. This illustrates the need for investment and reform.