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Call for MP to vote to protect local hospital

Labour has called upon Dan Byles and Marcus Jones to vote in Parliament against clause 119 of the new Health Bill before Parliament that could see services at hospitals like the George Eliot damaged. The call was made by both Mike O'Brien and the Labour Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham (both below outside George Eliot Hospital)

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MPs across the country with local trusts in financial difficulty have been asked to 'put constituency before party' and block the Health Secretary's plans to cut local people out of decisions about hospital reorganisation.

A Labour-led cross party campaign against Clause 119 that would give Jeremy Hunt the power to close or downgrade services without local people having their say builds ahead of crucial Commons vote on Tuesday 11th March. 

The recent Lewisham case shows no community in England is safe from being cut out of decisions to close or downgrade hospitals if Government plans go through; but the NHS trusts most at risk from the Health Secretary's new "hospital closure clause" are today named for the first time.

There are 32 communities in England where NHS regulators have significant concerns over finances, which risk placing the trusts at the centre of area-wide reconfigurations that affect neighbouring hospitals. If the Commons votes for the sweeping new powers on Tuesday, Ministers will get the green light to impose downgrades on hospitals in neighbouring areas and local patients and clinicians will have little chance to object.

Ahead of the crucial vote, Labour has made a direct appeal to MPs in the areas most affected to join a growing cross-party campaign against the Health Secretary's power-grab. Mike O’Brien has written to Mr Byles today urging him to stand up for worried patients and their local NHS.

On Tuesday, Labour will vote to delete the new rules from the Bill and will join forces with MPs of other parties to hand power back to local communities.

Tuesday's debate comes after Jeremy Hunt's plan to balance the books in a neighbouring trust by downgrading Lewisham Hospital was thrown out by the High Court. His response to that defeat was to bring forward rushed amendments to the Care Bill to give himself the powers denied to him by the court.

In his letter to the Conservative MP, Mike O’Brien said:

“In the Commons on Tuesday you will have the opportunity to put constituents before party by voting against clause 119 of the Care Bill. I urge you to be in the Commons and to vote against this crucial clause. It would be a dereliction of the duty of an MP to represent local people if you missed such a crucial vote. Hospitals with financial issues could potentially see loss of services or closure of the A&E or substantial reorganisation by this new law. The George Eliot Hospital has a deficit and I am concerned that potentially it is one of 32 hospitals that could be affected by the new law.

Clause 119 amends laws I brought to create the role of Trust Special Administrator (“TSA”) to deal with cases where hospitals are in crisis. This was in the aftermath of the Stafford Hospital crisis because Ministers had little legal capacity to intervene.  As the Court of Appeal confirmed in the Lewisham Hospital case in 2012, this was never was intended to be a backdoor route to allow A&E’s or for hospitals to be ‘reconfigured’, reorganised or closed.  The Court of Appeal decided that Andrew Lansley, as Health Secretary, had acted unlawfully by using the TSA process to try to close the A&E at Lewisham Hospital. The government has responded to the courts  with a new law to give immense powers to Ministers to appoint a TSA to reorganise hospitals, close services like A&E’s and to ‘reconfigure’ services between different hospitals.  This circumvents the detailed public consultation requirements previously in place with weaker consultations. It is potentially a threat to any hospital with a deficit like the George Eliot Hospital."

Andy Burnham MP, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, said:

"This Government used to say it wanted to put patients and doctors in charge of the local NHS. Now Jeremy Hunt wants to ride roughshod over local communities and have carte blanche to break up the NHS without anyone else having a say. He must be stopped.

"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.

"Labour is clear: changes to hospitals should be driven by clinical, not financial, reasons with local people involved every step of the way. That is why we believe these plans are dangerous and wrong. It is time for Parliament to stop an arrogant Secretary of State from overstepping the mark."

 Trusts forecasting ending 2013/14 in deficit and where the NHS Trust Development Authority has required action:

 

Barking, Havering And Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust; George Eliot Hospitals NHS; Trust United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust; North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust

 

2.   Trusts forecasting ending year in deficit where NHS TDA has registered a material issue concern:

 

Barnet And Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust; Barts Health NHS Trust; Bedford Hospital NHS Trust; Croydon Health Services NHS Trust; Ealing Hospital NHS Trust; East Cheshire NHS Trust; East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust; Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust; Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust; Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust; Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust; Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust; University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust; Weston Area Health NHS Trust; Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust; Wye Valley NHS Trust

 

3.   Trusts where Monitor is taking enforcement action and believes there is a significant or material risk over continuity of services:

 

Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust; Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Bolton NHS Foundation Trust; Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, NHS Foundation Trust; Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; Medway NHS Foundation Trust; Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

 Text of Letter

 

Dear Dan

In the Commons on Tuesday you will have the opportunity to put constituents before party by voting against clause 119 of the Care Bill. I urge you to do so. Hospitals with financial issues could see loss of services or closure of the A&E or substantial reorganisation if clause 119 becomes law. The George Eliot Hospital has a deficit and I am concerned that potentially it is one of 32 hospitals that could be affected.

Clause 119 amends laws I brought to create the role of Trust Special Administrator (“TSA”) to deal with cases where hospitals are in crisis. This was in the aftermath of the Stafford Hospital crisis because Ministers had little legal capacity to intervene. As the Court of Appeal confirmed in the Lewisham Hospital case in 2012, this was never was intended to be a backdoor route to allow A&E’s or for hospitals to be ‘reconfigured’, reorganised or closed. The Court of Appeal decided that Andrew Lansley, as Health Secretary, had acted unlawfully by using the TSA process to try to close the A&E at Lewisham Hospital. The government has responded to the courts with a new law to give immense powers to Ministers to appoint a TSA to reorganise hospitals, close services like A&E’s and to ‘reconfigure’ services between different hospitals. This circumvents the detailed public consultation requirements previously in place with weaker consultations. It is potentially a threat to any hospital with a deficit like the George Eliot Hospital.

This ought to be about local constituents rather than party. Unlike Marcus Jones who is a PPS so he must vote the party whip or resign, you are a backbencher and, although you have less influence, you have greater freedom on voting for your constituents rather than your party.

The background to the TSA is that in October 2013 the Government introduced an amendment to the Care Bill about the powers of TSAs, who are appointed to take charge of failing trusts and make recommendations about the future of their services, to make recommendations about service changes that involve neighbouring trusts. This amendment (168A) was tabled on 16 October and agreed during the Report Stage in the Lords on 21 October. It is currently clause 119 in the Bill.

Earl Howe the Minister introducing the amendment stated that the amendment would: “...put beyond doubt the Government’s existing position that the remit of a trust special administrator is to make recommendations that may apply to services beyond the confines of the trust in administration...”.

Lord Hunt of King’s Heath who was Chairman of the Heart of England Trust used by many local people has said that he viewed the Government amendment “not as a clarification of the law but as a major policy change that is at odds with the approach taken by the Secretary of State in the 2012 Act, when he repeatedly put his faith in local commissioning by local doctors.”

I urge you to vote against clause 119.

Yours ever Mike 

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@mikeobrien4mp calls on Tory MP Dan Byles to vote to protect local hospitals
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Call for MP to vote to protect local hospital
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