Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, last Friday (29th November 2002) attended the St Albans and Harpenden Primary Care Trust meeting on the review of Hertfordshire?s health services.

    Peter Lilley made the following comment after the meeting:

    “It appears that the Health bureaucracy in Hertfordshire is intent on further centralisation and mergers as a way to improving healthcare. During the last five years, I have attended meetings on merging Fundholding GPs into Primary Care Groups; Primary Care Groups into Primary Care Trusts; Primary Care Trusts into bigger Trusts; four Health Authorities first merging into two Health Authorities, then into one Hertfordshire Health Authority and finally merging with Bedfordshire Health Authority to create a Strategic Health Authority responsible for both counties.

    “Yet I have never been asked to attend a consultation about the quality of care within our hospitals. When I attended the first public meeting of the new Hertfordshire Health Authority, I expressed astonishment that they didn?t have the quality of healthcare or the outcomes of treatment on their agenda ? only the usual structural, financial and organisational issues. When I asked for information on the proportion of beds occupied by people who acquired infections whilst staying in local hospitals it was not available.

    “I can?t help but feeling that if the local NHS bureaucracy devoted as much time and energy to the quality of healthcare as to the merger of services into ever bigger units, we would not have local hospitals with one star ratings, nor hospitals with among the highest infection rates in the country.

    “I certainly want to see one of our hospitals upgraded on a new site to become a teaching hospital ? incorporating a new cancer unit to replace Mount Vernon. But I remain sceptical about the need to downgrade or merge our other hospitals until we see firm evidence on whether previous mergers (like St Albans and Hemel) have resulted in the improved standard of care which their advocates promised.

    “At a recent advice surgery, I met a constituent who acquired MRSA when being treated for a fracture at a local hospital and as a result has subsequently needed ten more operations. Nearly one in ten beds is occupied by people who got their infection on hospital. If we could reduce this we would not only save lives but reduce many of the pressures on our local NHS.?