Brake Backs Wallington GPs in Battle for New Health Centre

March 4, 2004 12:00 AM

At the recent Health Questions in Parliament, Tom Brake, MP for Carshalton and Wallington, pressed Health Secretary John Reid on the future of Wallington's Shotfield Health Centre.

Tom Brake said, "For a number of years, the GPs in the Shotfield Health Centre have wanted to improve facilities for patients. After years of delay, it seems that the project might at last take off.

"I want the Government to address the concerns being expressed by health professionals about the expense of LIFT projects. I sought a guarantee from the Health Secretary that GPs will not be forced down the Government's preferred route of a LIFT (Local Improvement Finance Trust) to finance the re-building of the surgery.

"The Government must accept that, providing it represents best value over the long-term, GPs should be allowed to finance and build their health centre."

Hansard extract of 24 Feb 2004:

Local Improvement Finance Trust Programme

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): If he will make a statement on the local improvement finance trust programme and general practitioner premises. [155718]

James Purnell (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab): What progress has been made on the local improvement finance trust programme; and if he will make a statement. [155720]

The Secretary of State for Health (Dr. John Reid): The national health service LIFT programme is a means of improving primary care facilities to address a legacy of under-investment. It is making good progress. Contracts have been signed for six schemes and work has begun on the ground. By the end of 2003, 268 new one-stop primary care centres had been developed and almost 2,000 GP premises had been refurbished or replaced. Most facilities will be provided through traditional procurement routes and such developments will continue.

Tom Brake : I thank the Secretary of State for that response. For several years, GPs at the Shotfield health centre in Wallington have been pressing to renovate the facilities and the project appears to be about to take off. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that GPs will not be forced to follow a LIFT route and that there are concerns among health professionals about the long-term costs of LIFT projects? Does he accept that, provided that the GPs' proposal represents best value and is what patients want, it should be allowed to proceed?

Dr. Reid: As someone whose party supports decentralisation of decision making, the hon. Gentleman understands that important decisions about the provision of local health care services should be taken locally by the primary care trust, obviously working with GPs. It is right that what happens at Shotfield should be decided locally.

On costing such schemes, the hon. Gentleman could look to the well- advanced LIFT scheme in his constituency. I believe that the south-west London LIFT scheme includes a project at Green Wrythe Lane clinic. The planned new one-stop primary care centre will be four times the size of the existing scheme and exhibit benefits, including the services that it will provide to some 6,000 patients, thereby enabling much better integration of health and social services. Such examples show how effective the refurbishments can be, but the decisions must ultimately be made locally. That is why 75 per cent. of our money is allocated in a decentralised fashion to primary care trusts.

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