DO Gloucestershire's hospitals face a new threat?
Despite fierce opposition from doctors, 38 Degrees, the British Medical Association and charities, the government is trying to rush through changes that will make it far easier to close hospitals without public consultation.
If one hospital – even outside Gloucestershire – gets into trouble, other popular and well-run hospitals in our area could be further downgraded or shut down to balance the books, under the proposed new rules.
Recently, a court ruling stopped Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt from closing accident and emergency and maternity services at popular Lewisham Hospital.
Now the government wants to remove the law that protected Lewisham.
If Clause 118 of the Care Bill, dubbed the ‘hospital closure clause’ becomes law in February, the fate of hospitals across the county could be taken out of our hands.
We already know that the government is quietly reviewing the future of half the hospitals in the country.
If our hospitals were threatened, this new law would give local people, doctors, and councillors little or no say in what happened to it. That’s an awful prospect.
The Royal College of Physicians has said that “handing powers to special administrators to make decisions about neighboring trusts is cause for concern.”
The UK already has fewer hospital beds than most developed countries.
The British Medical Association opposes the hospital closure clause, saying it would allow the Health Secretary to “force changes through the back door”.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, Professor Allyson Pollock says that the clause will “undermine equal access to care in England” and removes “checks and balances designed to ensure that changes are in the interests of the communities affected” with centrally-appointed decision makers only having to think about money.
Public outcry now could force the government to change the worst aspects of the Bill – including the hospital closure clause – in its final stages early next year.
Will our local MPs press to get the Bill amended, and the hospital closure clause dropped – or will they put the future of Gloucestershire's hospital services in jeopardy?
Since 2012 the Health Secretary no longer has a duty to secure a comprehensive health service but he wants more power to impose fast-track hospital closures with no reference to local views. What happened to ‘no decision about me without me’?