Labour appeal to block Care Bill closure measures following Lewisham Hospital debacle

Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham

First published in News © by

Labour is appealing for Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs to help block measures it says will give ministers sweeping powers to close hospitals in the wake of the Lewisham debacle.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said clause 119 of the Care Bill - due to be debated in the Commons today - would allow Jeremy Hunt to "ride roughshod" over local residents' concerns.

The opposition has highlighted more than 30 cash-strapped trusts they argue would be "at risk" if it was made easier to rationalise services.

The Government has brought forward amendments to the Bill after a court threw out plans to downgrade Lewisham Hospital in the face of fierce local objections.

Mr Burnham 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."

A Conservative Party spokesman said: "These claims from Andy Burnham are irresponsible scaremongering of the worst kind - changes to the special administrator regime will simply ensure that patients get safe care, and these powers have only ever been used in extremis twice since 2009, when Labour introduced them in the first place.

"This Government is determined to turn round failing hospitals, unlike the Opposition, which didn't confront the sort of under performance and failure we tragically saw at Mid Staffs.

"If anything, our proposals extend the requirement to consult and engage with local people and local doctors, and it's nothing but an act of political opportunism to suggest otherwise."

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