Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Westminster Hall adjournment debate on accident and emergency provision

    Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): Will the Minister respond to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) about providing information? When provision at St. Albans was merged with that at Hemel Hempstead?against strong opposition from locals and myself?we were told that the move was necessary to improve health outcomes. Since then, evidence of such improvements has not been forthcoming. We have asked that Ministers carry out a nationwide study of mergers to clarify whether they have produced better health outcomes, before further mergers, including the possible closure of half or three quarters of the accident and emergency units in Hertfordshire, are carried forward. Will the Minister promise to provide that information, and if not, why not?

    Ms Blears : What is important is that we are talking about what local people can decide to do for themselves. The hon. Member for Meriden will know that there were about eight options for various configurations of emergency services in her area. No decision has been taken on which options will go out for public consultation, but it is crucial that the detailed weighing-up of what is best for the local community and what combination of services will properly provide for local people is done at the local level, with the primary care trusts in the lead. It is crucial that we bring together clinicians, local patients and all those who make up the neighbourhood. It is not simply a case of the Government coming up with a national template?a top-down solution?that will act as a blueprint for everyone. Local communities must be involved.

    14 May 2002 : Column 196-7WH