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What assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the findings of the Independent Healthcare Commission on the NHS in North West London.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Jane Ellison):
It might assist the House if I were just to mention that this commission was commissioned by five Labour councils and was chaired by Michael Mansfield, QC. On the assessment of the commission’s findings, I can put it no better than the lead medical director for the “Shaping a Healthier Future” project, who said:
“The unanimous conclusion of the board’s clinicians was that the report offered no substantive evidence or credible alternative to consider that would lead to better outcomes for patients…above the existing plans in place”.
I concur with that judgment.
Last July, the Minister held a constructive meeting with west London MPs and agreed that information on the review of our hospital services would be shared. We understand that a plan B is being considered which will still move hospital services from Charing Cross and Ealing but, because of rising costs, will retain and mothball existing buildings rather than redeveloping the sites. Can we see the current plans?
The hon. Gentleman rightly says that we had a constructive meeting but, as with everything in this area, it is time to move on. There is a grave danger of him appearing to be like one of those soldiers discovered on a Pacific island after the second world war still fighting the old war. Part of the reason for cost escalation in NHS projects is the constant challenge and delay, and “Shaping a Healthier Future” has complete clinical consensus across north-west London. The clinicians say that this
“will save many lives each year”.
It is time to get on with this project.
Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab):
The report heavily features Ealing hospital, where the radiographer Sharmila Chowdhury blew the whistle on consultants taking bungs—extra payments. She is now jobless and, as a widow with a mortgage, soon to be homeless. Will the Minister urgently look into her case, because despite a plethora of reports—this one and the Francis review—this Government do not seem to be doing anything for her?
I do not think that is fair. In fact, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of State has met the clinician in question, and the Francis review recommendations, as we have adopted them, make it quite clear that staff have a right to speak out. Of course we want everyone to speak out on behalf of patient safety.