Thursday, March 10, 2011

Minister offers meeting with Copeland MP re hospitals

During Health questions in Parliament on Tuesday of this week, after Andrew Rosindell MP had asked about measures to protect against MRSA and C-Diff (on which West Cumberland Hospital has an excellent record), the following exchange took place:

Jamie Reed (Copeland, Labour)

"As the Secretary of State knows, the north Cumbrian health economy is in crisis. GP commissioning is providing £30 million less for acute hospital services in north Cumbria this year than it did last year. This has resulted in the trust being unable to seek foundation trust status, and it is seeking a merger which minutes leaked to me by consultants say could lead to the closure of the West Cumberland hospital. Will the Secretary of State meet me as a matter of urgency so that we can collectively find how we can get the hospital out of that hole? Will he also consider a delay to foundation trust status to give the hospital trust more time to get back on its feet?"

Simon Burns (Minister of State (Health), Conservative)

"I am a bit confused, Mr Speaker, as the question is about MRSA and C. difficile, and I did not hear any specific question from the hon. Gentleman on that subject."

John Bercow (Speaker)

"I am grateful to the Minister of State. My sense is that Mr Reed is seeking a meeting. The Minister is perfectly at liberty to say more if he wishes, or if he does not think it is worth it, he does not have to do so."

Simon Burns (Minister of State (Health), Conservative)

"Mr Speaker, you are a wise owl to be able to interpret what Opposition Members are thinking but may not be saying. If the hon. Gentleman has concerns along the lines that he mentioned, I or one of my ministerial colleagues would be more than happy to meet him."

John Bercow (Speaker)

"Wise owl is the kindest description that the hon. Gentleman has ever offered of me. I shall take it that he means it. It's the best I'll get."

(For anyone reading this who does not follow affairs in parliament, the last comment from the Speaker is a joke which refers to a heated argument last year about a matter of parliamentary procedure, when the same minister notoriously referred to the Speaker in uncomplementary terms.)