§ Mr. Nigel Jones
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment is made of(a) proposals for increases in population and (b) housing targets when changes and amalgamation of NHS services are planned by health bodies; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Hutton
It is for the local health services to decide, with their local populations and in the light of relevant guidance and standards, how national health service services are organised. This should take account of population changes and housing targets when considering the reconfiguration of services. To help the NHS set a clear direction of travel when considering service expansion and redesign, the Department published "Keeping the NHS Local—A New Direction of Travel", in February 2003. It sets out core principles for service change that the NHS must follow. While accepting that centralisation is sometimes necessary to maintain high quality services and patient safety, it challenges the view that 'biggest is best', and sets out a range of strategies and options to help the NHS keep services local.