§ Miss Widdecombe
To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether he has made a decision about South East Thames regional health authority's proposals for radiotherapy in mid-Kent; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
I have today announced my decision to approve South East Thames regional health authority's proposal to build a new radiotherapy unit at Maidstone district hospital, costing nearly £11 million. The development of the new unit will involve the closure of two smaller units at St. William's hospital, Rochester and Pembury hospital, near Tunbridge Wells.
I considered the proposal and two counter proposals very carefully and Ministers received three deputations as well as representations from Members of Parliament, community leaders and members of the public. I paid particular attention to concerns about standards of service, about accessibility, about the continuity of existing services and the strong local support for existing units. However, I was also guided by the recommendations of a review by my expert advisers on cancer, announced last year, on 24 February 1988 at column251, on the organisation of radiotherapy services and the importance of having units of a sufficient size, whenever possible. In this case, I have concluded that the catchment area would best be served by a central unit at Maidstone. A central unit will bring together expertise and high technology equipment which should ensure the pest possible standard of care and this was strongly supported by the professional advice I received. Its location at Maidstone will minimise travelling time for the greatest number of people and will take full advantage of the possibilities of integrating the service with the full range of facilities available at the new DGH in Maidstone.