Over the past couple of days there has been much talk, and speculation about what impact ‘Clause 119′ of the Care Bill would have on hospital closures. Local Liberal Democrats wrote to Paul Burstow MP who due to put in amendment on the bill that would strengthen local people’s say in hospital closures:
“Like many places, we’ve facing changes and possibly closures in some of our health/hospital closures locally BUT it’s important that these are explained to local people, their views listened to and taken into account when decisions finally made. This process must be open, transparent and fair (good LibDem principles !) so I urge you to do your best for us all this afternoon when the Care Bill’s being debated/decided upon.”
This is the reply we received:
“I thought I should update you on what has happened.
I raised the concerns about the changes the Government was proposing to the way in which a hospital in serious financial or clinical trouble is handled in the NHS. Trust special administration (TSA) as it is known was introduced by Labour in 2009. It is a blunt process that should only ever be used in exceptional circumstances.
I argued that the starting point must be that decisions about the future of local health services are grounded in clinical evidence, supported by local clinicians and drawn up with the active involvement of local people.
As a result of raising the issues I have managed to get the Government to make some important concessions. The amendment played a vital part in getting Ministers attention.
Today Ministers gave Parliament the assurance that everything possible will be done to help any potentially failing hospital to sort out their difficulties so that a TSA is only ever used in rare and extreme circumstances.
Following my lobbying Ministers have amended the Bill to strengthen public and patient involvement by the inclusion of local Healthwatch. In addition local councils are being added for the first time too. In the Lewisham case the local Council played a vital role in standing up for local people.
Also as a result of today TSAs will have to consult with NHS Trusts and their staff and with commissioners (CCGs) of any affected NHS organisations.
And as a result of the amendment Ministers have conceded that equal weight must be given to views of each involved Trust, staff and commissioners. Finally Ministers confirmed in response to my amendment that any TSA plan must have the agreement of ALL relevant commissioners.
When it came to pushing the amendment to the vote I had to make a fine judgement. Having secured important changes and commitments from the Government I took the view that pushing the amendment to a vote ran the risk of defeat and sacrificing what the Government had offered.
That is not the end of the matter. A cross party committee of MPs and Peers will be set up to agree the guidance to TSAs. I will be chairing that Committee and I am keen, as we draw up the rules, to make sure the views of local clinicians and local people are heard.”
38 Degrees who have helped run a campaign bringing this important issue to people’s attention have said the following an email to their supporters:
“At first glance it seems that the government did make some positive changes. The challenge is working out whether they go far enough. The office team has asked legal experts to look at them. You’ll hear their verdict as soon as we get it.”
Calderdale Liberal Democrats will be pressing to make sure the positive changes announced by the Minister are followed through. We will be doing this by lobbying and supporting members of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary party who are trying to ensure the are enacted.