Tony Blair has written to Michael Fabricant following Mr Fabricant’s question to the Prime Minister last week and the subsequent letter he wrote to the Prime Minister. (For the text of the original letter, see the News Release dated 28th June).
Tony Blair’s two page letter to Michael Fabricant follows below.
Michael Fabricant says: "Tony Blair has not really answered my questions to him. The fact is that the South Staffordshire Health Authority are planning to save £1 million per year through these changes to hospital care in Lichfield and Burntwood. Tony Blair acknowledges that there is a £4.75 million shortfall in funding and notwithstanding extra payments which may or may not have been received by the Authority, it still receives less than any other Health Authority in the West Midlands which in turn receives less than any other region.
"Where Tony Blair and I can agree is the importance of everyone making their views known to the Health Authority. As he says in his letter to me, ‘Department of Health ministers will carefully consider all the issues, including the outcome of public consultation, should the matter be referred
to them in the future’. The Health Authority should know – and constituents should rest assured – that I will refer the matter to Health ministers if the Health Authority’s final decision is at variance with local wishes".
Tony Blair’s letter now follows:-
10 DOWNING STREET
THE PRIME MINISTER 3 July 2001
Thank you for your letter of 28 June regarding the strategic review of hospital services in South Staffordshire, an issue you also raised at Prime Minister’s Questions last week.
As you are aware, formal consultation on proposals for major change to community hospital services in South Staffordshire will be taking place between June and September 2001. The proposals form part of a strategic review of all health services in South Staffordshire started by local health organisations during 1999, and they aim to address a number of pressures for change. These include a rising demand for healthcare and a drive to improve quality of care for patients consider whether:
The Health Authority stress that the review is about driving up quality of care for the benefit of both patients and staff. It considers options to invest in community services to deliver modern and appropriate care, closing some of the county’s older hospital buildings. I realise that the proposed changes to the location of hospital care affect several communities, especially the communities of Barton under Needwood and Hammerwich and for this reason I would encourage people to make their views known to the Health Authority within the consultation process.
You will appreciate that ministers cannot comment on matters that are the subject of public consultation, in the expectation that agreement on the way forward can be reached locally. Of course, Department of Health ministers will carefully consider all the issues, including the outcome of public consultation, should the matter be referred to them in the future.
With regard to your comments relating to funding, South Staffordshire Health Authority is below its capitation target by around £4.75 million. As you will know, the Department of Health is currently looking at the development of a new funding formula, due to be introduced in 2003/04. Whilst the present capitation formula is frozen, the revenue distribution policy in 2001/02 provided all Health Authorities with at least a 7.8 % cash increase, with below target Health Authorities receiving larger increases. In the case of South Staffordshire Health Authority this amounted to a cash increase of 8.26%.
Nationally, by 2003/04 public expenditure on the NHS in England is set to rise to £57 billion. This means in the five-year period covered by the Government’s two spending reviews, expenditure will have risen by over 50 % (more than a third in real terms).