Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, seized on a ministerial announcement on maternity services to raise the plight of Hemel Hempstead Hospital in Parliament.
He revealed that Hemel is the only local hospital which is not to receive a penny of extra investment on its maternity services from a new government fund.
Peter Lilley said after the debate:
“This announcement and the failure of the Minister to give me any assurance add to my concerns about the future of women?s and children?s services at Hemel.
“I shall continue to fight to restore these services so that they are accessible to mothers in my constituency.?
Please see excerpt from Hansard below:
Hansard, Oral Answers to Questions [16 Oct 2001], HEALTH
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): The Minister?s claim to be improving maternity services will ring pretty false in my constituency and in neighbouring constituencies, as it coincides with the announcement that Hemel Hempstead maternity services are to close, with all women?s and children?s services being transferred to Watford. How can anyone be expected to believe that that closure is temporary, as the Government have claimed up to now, when today?s announcement makes it clear that Hemel Hempstead will be the only hospital not to receive a penny for improvement or investment in its maternity services? Can the Minister tell us, hand on heart, that that unit will reopen in due course?
Jacqui Smith (Minister of State): Changes to the local provision of services can be difficult for individual areas, but they are matters for local discussion. It is for health authorities and trusts to decide on service provision, taking into account local people?s needs, evidence of effectiveness, and available resources. However, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the new and independent reconfiguration panel will take those factors into account on reaching decisions on any future changes in local maternity services. Clear criteria exist for the assessment of any proposed changes, and I assure the right hon. Gentleman that they will be applied.