STATEMENT ON COMMUNITY HOSPITALS
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Is the Secretary of State aware that at a public meeting last September in my constituency, which I chaired, her local NHS officials told us that Red House hospital?that is, Harpenden memorial hospital?was safe, but that eight months later they announced that it was to close all beds in order to save ?1 million a year? Can she confirm that her fund will not in any way help to avert that, and that when the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, in pursuit of its obligation to cut spending by a quarter over the next three years?from ?260 million to ?200 million?downgrades the district hospital, she will not claim that that is somehow creating a new community hospital? And will she come to our constituencies and try to convince us of the value of that move?
Ms Hewitt: Far from cutting the budget for the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, we are asking it to live within the very substantially increased budget that it has received over the years?thanks to the investment that we have made, which the right hon. Gentleman voted against. We have put more money than ever before into the NHS, in his area and everywhere else, but we do expect the NHS in Hertfordshire to live within its means. It should not expect the NHS in other parts of the country to bail out its overspending at the expense of patients in the rest of the country, where the NHS is balancing or even underspending on its budgets. This issue has to be sorted out and difficult decisions will have to be made across Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire to ensure that the local health community has the right services in the right facilities, giving the best possible value for money. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will continue to take part in the consultation that the local PCTs are having to undertake, in order to ensure that the best decisions are made, but that will be done within the framework of the increased budget that we have made available.