Wellness secretary Jeremy Hunt proposed the changes soon after the court of appeal ruled he had exceeded his powers in attempting to close components of Lewisham hospital. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Pictures
The government faces a serious cross-celebration revolt this week above ideas that would give the well being secretary and officials he appoints better powers to shut hospital accident and emergency departments and other services.
The problem is politically explosive, with campaign groups – such as 38 Degrees – warning all MPs that hospitals in their constituencies could be vulnerable to sudden cuts or even closure in the runup to the 2015 general election.
Ahead of what could be a heated Commons debate, a Lib Dem former wellness minister, Paul Burstow, has tabled amendments to the care bill that are likely to be backed by Labour and some rebel Tory MPs.
They dread the powers would let popular and successful services to be closed or downgraded inside forty days, with no appropriate public consultation.
The controversial Clause 119 was inserted into the bill after overall health secretary Jeremy Hunt was advised by the court of appeal final 12 months that he had acted past his authority in attempting to minimize emergency and maternity services at Lewisham hospital in south London.
The proposed alterations had been element of a shakeup proposed soon after the neighbouring South London Healthcare trust went into administration, with losses of far more than £1m a week. Opponents of the cuts at Lewisham argued that their profitable hospital must not suffer following failings elsewhere. Hunt mentioned providers would be delivered ideal if reorganised over a wider region.
Now Labour as properly as Lib Dem MPs and Tory rebels are insisting on appropriate consultation with nearby medical professionals and services users just before adjustments are created to productive hospitals.
Clause 119, dubbed the “hospital closure clause” by critics, gives powers to a “trust specific administrator”, appointed to a financially failing believe in, to suggest changes across a region. Labour well being spokesman Jamie Reed has signed an amendment put forward by Burstow to require much more consultation and give physicians who commission providers a veto above any reorganisation that follows failure in a separate hospital.
Nick de Bois, Tory MP for Enfield North, who fought a lengthy battle for his regional hospital, mentioned he would not be backing the government: “My constituents have witnessed first hand the flawed, unrepresentative consultations on the future of Chase Farm hospital … I have no intention of voting for a clause that reduces further the voice of patients and residents.”
Shadow well being secretary Andy Burnham said: “It is arrogance in the intense for Jeremy Hunt to ask parliament to give him powers that the high court refused. No hospital in England is secure from this power grab, which would permit funds-driven hospital closures to be imposed on any community. With so a lot of hospitals in economic difficulty, this move will send a chill via each local community in the nation.”
Burstow explained that if a hospital was failing badly, ministers ought to have a “rapid way of assessing the alternatives and repairing the issue”. Even though he accepted that providers provided by 1 hospital have been portion of a internet that linked them to other people nearby, ” the alterations deliver hospitals that are not failing into this fast procedure”. “It is crucial that clinicians and the public are completely concerned, and that is what my amendment is striving to repair.”
A Department of Wellness spokesperson explained: “The NHS is at the moment turning round a variety of hospitals in particular measures, several of which have had deep-seated difficulties for many years.
“In extremis, when a trust goes into administration, it is needed to give the administrator ample energy to consider the difficult choices essential to make sure sufferers get protected care. In such situations lives are put at threat if the difficulty is not dealt with swiftly.”