QA governor hits out as health secretary is given power to close hospitals

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

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THE trust that runs Queen Alexandra Hospital should not fear the implications of a controversial bill that has been approved by parliament.

That’s the message from Cllr Will Purvis, a governor for Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs QA in Cosham.

Yesterday Clause 119 – dubbed the hospital closure clause – of the Care Bill was approved as 297 MPs voted in favour, while 239 voted against.

It gives health secretary Jeremy Hunt greater powers to intervene to downgrade or close hospital services.

This includes those trusts with financial problems, or looking at reorganising health services in a region if one trust is failing.

MP Paul Burstow, the former Liberal Democrat health minister, asked for an amendment, which would mean local commissioning groups could veto such plans but this was not accepted.

Cllr Purvis said: ‘We were hoping the amendment would have been taken into consideration, as these decisions are supposed to be about democracy – except for exceptional circumstances. It’s completely wrong for any secretary of state to be able to make such a decision without consulting the community.’

According to the Labour party there are 30 hospital trusts that are ‘at risk’ because they are cash-strapped – including PHT.

Cllr Purvis added: ‘I’m not concerned about PHT because it has a strategy and the Clinical Commissioning Groups are committed to it.

‘In the short term I see no reason to worry.

‘But it is a concern for any secretary of state to have this clause.’

The clause was written following Mr Hunt’s attempts to close maternity and emergency services at Lewisham hospital in south London last year.

It came after the neighbouring South London Healthcare Trust went into administration, but Mr Hunt was told he could not by the court of appeal.

Because of this rejection, Clause 119 was drawn up.

It means trust special administrators who take over any failing NHS trusts in England can push through whatever other local changes they think are necessary, although they will have to consult the public, commissioners and staff.

It means clinically-well performing hospital trusts could face sanctions.