MPs grant powers to close local hospitals

AT RISK: Redditch's Alexandra Hospital

AT RISK: Redditch's Alexandra Hospital

First published in News
Last updated

MPs have voted through a controversial measure that allows local hospitals to be closed or downgraded if a neighbouring trust is struggling financially.

Clause 119, dubbed the Hospital Closure Clause by opponents, gives England's health secretary Jeremy Hunt powers to close hospitals, even if they are performing well.

At a tense vote yesterday a total of 297 MPs, including Redditch MP Karen Lumley, voted in favour of a new Care Bill, which includes clause 119, while 239 voted against it.

Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham told MPs that it was dangerous and wrong.

Rebecca Blake, Labour's parliamentary spokesman for Redditch, said she is now worried about the future of the town's Alexandra Hospital.

"When Mrs Lumley voted yesterday to give the secretary of state the power to close hospitals within 40 days, she put her party before the needs of Redditch people.

"Local people have been in touch with me already about this and many more of them will be appalled to wake up to this news.

"For the past couple of years A&E, maternity and the future of our hospital have been under threat to save money. It has been a long hard slog to defend services and we are still fighting for consultant led births.

"Yet Mrs Lumley has pulled the rug from under local people and local doctors having a real say in the future of the Alex."

She added: "Members of parliament can give as many verbal assurances as they like, we the voters will judge them by their actions. And, when the Redditch MP voted for the hospital closure clause it was a vote against the Alex."

Mrs Lumley spoke at the report stage of the bill seeking clarification from Health Minister Dr Daniel Poulter that the Alex Hospital would be safe under the new plans.

During the debate she asked for assurances that the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust, which runs the Alex and is expected to be £12 million in debt this year, was not on the Health Minister's radar.

Responding, Dr Poulter put on record that there were "no plans for the TSA (trust special administrator) to have involvement" in Redditch and that the local processes in place will continue.

He added that he believed it was "wrong to conflate the issues" of the Care Bill and protection of services for the Alex Hospital.

Defending her decision to vote in favour of the bill Mrs Lumley said: “I was pleased that the minister was able to allay the fears of my constituents. He was able to do that in our meeting on Monday and he did so in the House of Commons again yesterday.

"I said before I was elected that protecting services at the Alex would be my top priority for my constituency and this is as much the case today. We have fought long and hard on this and will continue to do so.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said clause 119 would help drive forward changes to ensure patient safety when trusts were found to be failing.

A Department of Health spokesman said the clause would only ever be used as a "last resort".

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