Rowen challenges PM on Accident and Emergency closures

June 6, 2007 12:00 AM

Rochdale MP Paul Rowen challenged Tony Blair at Prime Minister's Question Time on the potential closure of Accident and Emergency services at Rochdale Infirmary. He asked the Prime Minister: "Can the Prime Minister tell the House what the evidence is for his assertion that closing or downgrading A&E's like Rochdale's saves lives?" The Prime Minister answered but Mr Rowen was far from satisfied with his response.

Tony Blair, in one of his final appearances at Prime Minister's Questions, said: "In respect of each of these decisions they've got to be taken on the basis of local conditions. But what people will say, and this is driven by clinicians not actually in relation to cost, is that for some of the most serious illnesses or emergencies like stroke or heart disease it is actually better for people to be treated by paramedics in an ambulance and then taken to a specialised unit. Therefore the idea of Changing accident and emergency like maternity services or paediatrics is driven by the fact of increasing specialisation that does the best for patients and I do ask him to take account of that."

Commenting later on Mr Blair's answer, Mr Rowen said: "The Prime Minister fudged his answer. He doesn't seem to appreciate the seriousness of the situation all across the country - caused by his Labour Government's policy of centralisation. This policy could put lives at risk and I simply do not agree with the Prime Minister's answer. Here in Rochdale, we have acute health needs - recent statistics revealed people in Rochdale are 20 per cent more likely to die from chronic heart disease than elsewhere in the North West. That is one of many examples that I could give in a Town with a lower than average life expectancy."

"Mr Blair also claimed that the moves are the 'best for patients' - and that closing our A and E and other services would lead to 'increasing specialisation'. This is simply not the case; take for example the recent news that Rochdale Infirmary was in the top 3 nationally for treating Pulmonary Edema. There are many other examples of top class services at Rochdale Infirmary so the Prime Minister's assertions are incorrect."

The Prime Minister's answer to Mr Rowen's question also appeared to be inconsistent with findings in a report commissioned by Rochdale Council on the Healthy Futures and Making it Better proposals. The report, which will be presented to health bosses, says amongst other things: "There is not any evidence base to support the concentration of all the services under review" and, "There is no evidence for declining health service need in Rochdale; there is some evidence for rising need over the next 20 years." Mr Rowen said finally: "This report nails some misconceptions used by health bosses about Rochdale Infirmary. Indeed it concludes that our medical needs will actually increase over the next 20 years. That is all the more reason to keep vital services like A and E at Rochdale Infirmary."