Hunt seeks law change to help him close hospital services

UNISON is calling on members to help thwart health secretary Jeremy Hunt in his continuing attack on NHS hospitals.

After his attempt to downgrade the accident and emergency and maternity services at Lewisham Hospital earlier this year was deemed illegal by the courts, Mr Hunt has now decided to change the law.

A government amendment to the Care Bill, which has its second reading in the House of Commons on 16 December, is designed to make it easier for him to close or downgrade viable hospitals without proper consultation.

If accepted, the amendment would mean that administrators investigating financially troubled trusts would also, potentially, be able to close or downgrade neighbouring hospitals, even if they are financially healthy.

UNISON, which was part of the successful campaign to save Lewisham’s services from the axe, is calling on the health secretary to drop the ‘hospital closure clause’ from the bill.

“This is clearly a knee-jerk reaction from the government to losing the case to close Lewisham hospital,” said UNISON head of health Christina McAnea.

“If this clause becomes law it would give the health secretary virtually unfettered powers to close hospitals, not based on clinical evidence or even financial sustainability.

“Hospitals will be at risk of having services shut down without their agreement, without proper consultation with patients and the public, and without even any agreement from the new GP commissioners – something which the government promised following the Health and Social Care Act.”

The union will be taking up the issue in the remaining House of Commons stages of the bill.

It is also asking members to sign a petition, calling on Mr Hunt to drop the clause.

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