MP defends voting for hospital closure clause

By Ian Dipple Friday 07 March 2014 Updated: 12/03 12:43

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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'S MP has denied accusations she has betrayed the people of the town by voting to grant the health secretary the power to close or downgrade hospitals.

Karen Lumley backed clause 119 of the Care Bill - dubbed the 'hospital closure clause' - during a vote on Tuesday (March 11). It gives health secretary Jeremy Hunt and the Trust Special Administrator the power to close or downgrade hospitals across England within 40 days 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 emergency and maternity units at Lewisham Hospital was illegal. Even hospitals performing well could be at risk if they neighbour one in financial or clinical difficulty.

Members of the Save the Alex group say as a result of the vote and Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust's financial position, services at the Alexandra Hospital are at the greatest risk they have been since June 2012.

Rebecca Blake, Labour's Parliamentary spokeswoman for the borough, said if elected in 2015 they would repeal the law and accused Mrs Lumley of putting the party before Redditch.

"To vote to support hospital closures is unbelievable. It should be as straightforward as ABC, at every opportunity the MP should fight for our local hospital and in choosing not to she has failed the people of this town."

Mrs Lumley said she had planned to vote for an amendment put forward by Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow. But after he withdrew his support for it after winning assurances from the Government the new power would only be used in extreme circumstances, Healthwatch would be involved in any consultation and all relevant commissioners had to agree to the TSA plan, she was reassured.

Mrs Lumley said she would write to the 143 people who contacted her explaining the decision but said she agreed with the principle of the clause and had won assurances during the debate the Alex was not under threat because WAHT was not at risk of being put into administration.

"I was the only Worcestershire MP to attend the debate and air my concerns," she said.

"I have in the past stood up and voted against the Government, something our previous MP never did, so I do put the people of Redditch first.

"If what happened in Mid-Staffordshire happened in Redditch I would be the first one going to the Government asking for something to be done and I hope Save the Alex would be behind me."

WAHT is on course to end the current financial year £12million in debt and will need to borrow from the Government to ensure it does not run out of cash. The Trust Development Authority has also registered it has a 'material concern' about the Trust's financial position.

But health minister Dr Dan Poulter confirmed to Mrs Lumley there were no plans to involve the Trust Special Administrator and the current process for the reconfiguration of the county's hospital services would continue.

"It would be wrong and irresponsible for people to conflate those issues. There are local processes in place and they will continue."

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