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New laws could drive ‘political’ NHS closures

BMA urges government to think again on amendments to the Care Bill

Mark Gould

Monday, 16 December 2013

The BMA is urging the Government to think again on attempts to push through NHS reconfiguration "via the backdoor". It says the Government should backtrack on plans to amend the powers of Trust Special Administrators (TSA) as part of the hospital trust failure regime process.

Currently TSAs only have powers over failing trusts, but under the amendments to the Care Bill, which receives its second reading today, TSAs will be empowered to also make changes in neighbouring trusts without consulting patients, clinicians, the public, clinical commissioning groups or other providers in the area.

The amendments follow a high court ruling in July this year that quashed attempts by the Government to force through changes at Lewisham Hospital following the financial collapse of the neighbouring South London Healthcare trust.

The BMA is concerned that this will allow for the by-passing of the regular consultation process, with a failure to properly engage possibly leading to very serious negative consequences for the proper planning of local healthcare services.

Commenting ahead of the Care Bill’s second reading, Dr Mark Porter, Chair of BMA Council, said:

“With the NHS under financial strain there is immense pressure to make changes to the way services are delivered. We need a full debate on the best model for providing sustainable, high quality services, taking on board the views of clinicians, politicians and, crucially, the public.

“Most importantly any reconfiguration of services must be evidence-based and clinician-led, and not motivated by financial or political pressures. By rushing through these changes the Government is paving the way for current and future health secretaries to force changes through the backdoor without taking into consideration clinical or local needs.

“As we saw with Lewisham Hospital any attempt to use the failure of a hospital to force through change at neighbouring trusts can result in unnecessary strain on services, patient uncertainty and a huge cost to the taxpayer.

“It is vital that NHS reform is clinically, not politically, driven and we call on the Government to either amend the clause to ensure full consultation of all those affected is safeguarded, or remove it entirely.”

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