MP set for key vote on hospital closure clause

By Ian Dipple Friday 07 March 2014 Updated: 11/03 13:56

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Buy photos » Save the Alex campaigners Wendy Johnson, Neal Stote, Ian Johnson and Laney Walsh, urge Redditch MP Karen Lumley to vote against the hospital closure clause. Picture by Ian Dipple.

REDDITCH MP Karen Lumley says she has yet to decide whether or not to support part of a new law campaigners fear could hit services at the Alexandra Hospital.

MPs will vote at 6pm today (Tuesday) on the Care Bill, including clause 119 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 considered a nearby hospital or Trust is at financial risk.

Save the Alex campaigners and Redditch members of pressure group 38 Degrees have joined forces to urge Mrs Lumley to either vote against the clause or for an amendment giving local people and commissioners more of a say in the event a Trust goes into administration.

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.

The Trust Development Authority has also named the Trust as one of 16 where they have registered a material concern, although there is no suggestion currently WAHT is on the path to administration.

Mrs Lumley met with the minister on Monday to discuss her concerns but says she will enter this afternoon's debate, during which she intends to speak on the situation in Redditch, with an open mind.

"If a failing hospital was a school the Government would step in and sort it out, so the principle of that I don't disagree with, what I do disagree with is how it's being done," she told the Standard.

"The whole point of the Care Bill is to make sure local people get local consultation and decision-making. It was this Government which introduced local commissioners in the first place and I firmly believe without the work of Dr Jonathan Wells (chair of Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG) and his team we would not be where we are with the Alexandra Hospital today.

"So I'm not sure if this is a backward step but I will go into the debate, listen to what the minister has to say and make my decision at 6pm."

Labour have called for Conservative and Lib Dem MPs in areas where there are financial concerns about their hospital Trust to put their constituency before party and vote against the clause.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "With more and more hospitals in financial difficulty, this move could hit every community in the land and leave them voiceless in the face of changes to their services."

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