Campaigners battle 'hospital closure clause'

By Ian Dipple Tuesday 04 March 2014 Updated: 04/03 15:02

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CAMPAIGNERS have called for Redditch's MP to vote against part of a new law which they fear could devastate services at the Alexandra Hospital.

Save the Alex and Redditch members of pressure group 38 Degrees are urging Karen Lumley to reject cause 119 of the Care Bill dubbed the 'Hospital Closure Clause'.

The clause will give Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the Trust Special Administrator the power to close hospitals across England with just 40 days notice even if local people and doctors disagree. It was added

to the Care Bill in response to a court ruling which declared the closure of Lewisham Hospital was illegal.

Any hospital could be closed even if it is only considered a nearby hospital or Trust is at financial risk.

Campaigners fear Worcestershire Acute Hospital NHS Trust could be affected as it is set to notch up £12million of debt this year and will need to borrow money from the Department of Health to ensure it does not run out of cash.

Neal Stote, chair of the Save the Alex campaign, said that would put the deal to save over 98 per cent of A&E and the vast majority of maternity and children's services at the Alex at risk.

"We have fought too hard for the final decision to be snatched away from us and instead be replaced by a Trust Special Administrator decision that would be made on the hoof with little public scrutiny."

Save the Alex campaigners were due to meet with Mrs Lumley yesterday (Thursday) ahead of the vote in Parliament this month.

Members of 38 degrees were also due to meet with her but Mrs Lumley said she had not been properly informed but would be happy to meet with them at a later date.

"I am committed to saving the Alex and have always been grateful that throughout the past few years, the vast majority of us have made this campaign about doing just that and not about political point scoring or underhand tactics," she said.

"The Care Bill sets out a new duty on local authorities to promote diversity, quality and sustainability of local care services to meet the needs of local people. This will require local authorities to consider the impact of their commissioning decisions on the quality of the services people receive. I would have thought, given our own experiences in Redditch, this was something we’d all welcome."

But Mr Stote said there was nothing underhand about working with Redditch 38 Degrees members.

"If clause 119 is passed, the public, Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG, Redditch Borough Council, Bromsgrove District Council, Stratford District Council and even our MP's voice could be lost. A rushed 40 day decision with no public say is not the way to reconfigure health services for the future."

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