New threat for local hospitals?

DO North Hampshire Foundation Trust’s hospitals face a new threat?

Despite fierce opposition from doctors, 38 Degrees, the British Medical Association and charities, the Government is trying to rush through changes to make it far easier to close hospitals without proper consultation.

If one hospital – even outside our area – gets into trouble, other popular and well-run hospitals in our area could be downgraded or shut down to balance the books, under the proposed new rules.

Recently a court ruling stopped Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt from closing accident and emergency and maternity services at popular Lewisham Hospital.

Now the Government wants to remove the law that protected Lewisham.

If Clause 118 of the Care Bill, dubbed the ‘hospital closure clause’ becomes law in February, the fate of hospitals across the country could be taken out of our hands.

We already know that the Government is quietly reviewing the future of half the hospitals in the country.

If our hospital was threatened, this new law would give local people, doctors and councillors little or no say in what happened to it. That’s an awful prospect.

The Royal College of Physicians has said that “handing powers to special administrators to make decisions about neighbouring trusts is cause for concern.”

The UL already has fewer hospital beds than most developed countries.

The British Medical Association opposes the hospital closure clause, saying it would allow the Health Secretary to “force changes through the back door.”

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Professor Allyson Pollock says that the clause will “undermine equal access to care in England” and removes “checks and balances designed to ensure that changes are in the interests of the communities affected” with centrally- appointed decision makers only having to think about money.

Public outcry now could force the Government to change the worst aspects of the Bill – including the hospital closure clause – in its final stages early this year.

Will Sir George Young MP press to get the Bill amended, and the hospital closure clause dropped – or will he put the future of our area’s hospital services in jeopardy?

Since 2012 the Health Secretary no longer has a duty to secure a comprehensive health service, but he wants more power to impose fast-track hospital closures with no reference to the views of local people. What happened to ‘no decision about me without me’?

H S Wilshaw, Lomond Close, Oakley

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