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Your right to have your say on NHS services

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19 December 2013
Keep Alert On Monday 16 December 2013, the Government brought legislation to the House of Commons which could have very serious implications for hospitals and health services across the country. Clause 118 of the Government’s Care Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, gives draconian powers to Special Administrators who are appointed to failing hospital Trusts. 

These new powers could seriously hamper the public’s ability to have their say on where key hospital services (such as A&E and maternity departments) should be located and they could lead to a chaotic and rushed system of hospital reorganisations that will not be in the best interests of patients or our democracy. 

In Lewisham, we experienced the first ever use of the Trust Special Administration process when the South London Healthcare Trust was placed into special measures in summer 2012. The changes proposed in the current Bill would enable the Government in future to do elsewhere what they were told by the courts they couldn't do in Lewisham i.e. close much-needed, high performing services at one hospital to deal with financial problems at another.

As residents of Lewisham know all too well, the Special Administrator to the South London Healthcare Trust recommended that in order to solve the Trust's financial problems, the A&E and maternity services at Lewisham Hospital (a financially stable, well performing hospital, which was NOT part of SLHT) should be closed. 

The Special Administration process is completely different to any other hospital reconfiguration. It starts with the need to save money, with questionable clinician input. It is a very fast process, with limited opportunity for public consultation - the consultation document which was produced in the case of SLHT did not even contain a direct question about the closure of A&E and maternity services at Lewisham. The financial analysis and operational planning is rushed and in the case of Lewisham and SLHT proved to be highly erroneous. 

The Trust Special Administration process was never intended to be used as a "backdoor approach" to reconfiguration but this was exactly what was attempted in Lewisham and should Clause 118 remain part of the Bill, it would be used for this purpose elsewhere. If this Clause was on the statute book at the time the Special Administrator was appointed in South London, Lewisham's full A&E and maternity service would now be closing.

Along with many other health campaigners and politicians I don't believe this Clause should remain part of the Bill and I am encouraging MPs, from all parties, to join with Labour MPs to vote against it when the Bill returns to the Commons in the New Year. 

The political make-up of the House of Commons means that a significant number of Government MPs (Liberal Democrats and Conservatives) would need to vote against the Bill in order for us to have any chance of stopping these changes. 

Please share this information with your contacts and ask them to contact their MPs requesting that they vote against Clause 118 of the Care Bill.

You can find out who your MP is by typing your postcode into this website

You can read my speech on this subject here (scroll through to the second half of the speech).

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