Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Letter to The Editor

    26th November 2001

    Dear Sir,

    The all-party motion passed unanimously by St Albans District Council expressing ?a complete loss of confidence? in the management of West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust and the Hertfordshire Partnership Trust is unprecedented.

    It follows the shock decision to remove the Special Care Baby Unit, Maternity, Women?s and Children?s services from Hemel to Watford – coming on top of other crises which have hit Hemel.

    I endorse that motion because my constituents in Harpenden, Wheathampstead and Redbourn will be particularly hard hit by this closure especially if the rumoured move of maternity services from QEII to the Lister hospital also happens.

    However, it is important to say that – from my postbag – people do overwhelmingly retain confidence in the skill and dedication of our local doctors and nurses.

    The real problem is the serious demoralisation of staff aggravated by the relentless centralization and top-down direction of the NHS. It is that which has led to the crisis in nurse recruitment and retention, which has forced the closure in Hemel – not to mention the rise in GP vacancies in Hertfordshire from just three to 60 since last year and the increasing proportion of in-patients waiting a year for their operation since 1997.

    My first priority is to secure the return of maternity and related services to Hemel or St Albans. I sincerely hope the review by Lord Hunt will not just be a whitewash, endorsing the move subject to minor changes and vague promises about the future. I have written to the Minister saying that the only acceptable outcome (short of a decision to keep those services open)would be commitment to a firm date for returning these services to Hemel.

    It is very worrying that government plans for maternity services (as I highlighted in Parliament) do not include a penny of extra investment for Hemel, unlike all the other hospitals in the county.

    Yours faithfully

    The Rt. Hon. Peter Lilley MP