Following Michael Fabricant’s question to the Prime Minister yesterday about the proposed closures of the Victoria Hospital in Lichfield and the Hammerwich Hospital in Burntwood, he has now written to the Prime Minister enclosing a briefing note written by the Chief Executive of the South Staffordshire Health Authority, Melvyn Ellis, showing an annual shortfall of funding of just under £5 million a year below the Government’s already low allocation to the area.
The text of the letter written to the Prime Minister and sent by Government Courier this afternoon now follows:-
You will recall that you kindly agreed at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday to investigate the shortfall of funding, below the target level, of the South Staffordshire Authority. (Column 638, Hansard 27th June 2001)
The South Staffordshire Health Authority announced on June 8th their plans to close the Victoria Hospital in Lichfield and the Hammerwich Hospital in Burntwood and replace them with a single, smaller unit with fewer services which will save the Authority around £1 million annually. (See: ‘The Future of Community Hospitals in South Staffordshire’, published June 2001).
I enclose a copy of a Briefing Note for Members of Parliament prepared by the Chief Executive of the Health Authority dated 5th March this year which shows that the Authority this year is "being funded 1.25% below our target level equating to about £4.75 million".
Any help you personally can give to preserve hospital services in Lichfield and in Burntwood would be much appreciated by me and by my constituents. I am sure you will agree that this issue transcends party politics.
The extract from Hansard from yesterday’s question and answer now follows:-
Q12. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): On 8 June, only one day after the general election, South Staffordshire health authority announced the closures of the Victoria hospital in Lichfield and the Hammerwich hospital in Burntwood, in an attempt to save £1 million a year. The Prime Minister may not be aware–there is no reason why he should be–that South Staffordshire health authority has a shortfall each year of £4.75 million from its target funding. If I send the documentation to the right hon. Gentleman, will he undertake personally to look into this issue, which is of such great concern to my constituents?
The Prime Minister: I will certainly look into the matter if the hon. Gentleman sends me the information. I do not know about the circumstances that he has outlined. Whatever potential shortfall there may be from the health authority’s target, it will have received a great additional sum of money as a result of the extra investment that we put in. Without getting too much of a sense of deja vu about Prime Minister’s questions before the election, the fact is that he and every other member of the Conservative party stood on a platform of cuts in investment in our public services. [Interruption.] They may now suffer from collective amnesia, but they stood for opposition to the public spending increases that we put forward. I remember that when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer first announced that public service investment, Conservatives described it as reckless and irresponsible. I do not think that they meant that as a compliment. Whatever the hon. Gentleman says, it is important to realise the differences between the parties. Not one of the candidates in the leadership election has done other than accept the economic policy upon which he stood at the election. That economic policy would lead to boom and bust and cuts in services. We would not do it and Conservatives would.
"I am rather disappointed that the Prime Minister chose to end his answer to me with a long party political rant repeating the untruth that the Conservative Party would cut health spending. He repeated this lie during the election, but in any event, he is the Prime Minister – not William Hague – and he is ultimately responsible for the services the Government provides.
"I hope that once he has had a chance with his officials to examine the material I have sent him, he will restore funding to the South Staffordshire Health Authority. I will then pressure the Health Authority to amend this cost-cutting exercise. This could be our only hope." Says Michael Fabricant.