Michael Mansfield QC, Baroness Mary Warnock and Blake Morrison, the Lewisham People’s Commission Panel, along with Lord Owen and expert medical specialists make the risks clear in relation to the case of Lewisham Hospital – which the government tried and failed to close in 2013, using the existing Trust Special Administrator (TSA) process. The insertion of Clause 119 – previously 118, into the Care Bill is an action which now puts all hospitals in England at grave risk under a distortion of the same process. Clause 119 is a cuckoo in the nest of the Care Bill which is deliberately loosely written to enable a TSA to be appointed to hospitals which are described as failing (by whatever criteria is selected) – then to be empowered to fast-track the closure of services at any other hospitals, however successful or however far away, but which are deemed to be linked to the hospital trust to which the TSA has been appointed. This potentially puts your own local hospital in danger, along with hundreds more.
Sir Brian Jarman has said that it is better to mend hospitals than to close them. The suggestion that this will be used rarely is not a rationale which works. There is already sufficient legislation in place to attend to rare occurrences and to hospitals in difficulty, either via the existing TSA framework or via Section 8. This is disingenuous, bad, law. For 12 months, successful Lewisham Hospital was under attack by an attempted misuse of the TSA model as outlined in Chapter 5A of the 2009 additions to the 2006 Health Act. Had more than half of this hospital site been demolished and turned over to property developers as the government wanted, this chaotic plan would have had no clinical benefit to the wider community nor indeed any financial benefit overall. Now, that approach having been found entirely unlawful in both the High Court and the Court of Appeal, attempting a change in the law to make these objectives possible in as many hospitals as possible is a risk to the health and wellbeing of every community.
Local consultation is included in the process, but however can be overridden by NHS England. The views of our local GPs, doctors and patients can then be completely ignored. Millions of £s of taxpayers’ money will then be needlessly spent on the legal challenges which will result – money which should be spent on patient care. It is also questionable that fewer hospitals are safer, and denies the fact that many conditions such as acute asthma, pregnancy emergencies, peritonitis, meningitis, oesophageal bleeds or sickle cell crisis need urgent blue light access to an accessibly located A&E. Stroke is a different matter. Clause 119 will put the whole NHS hospital infrastructure in grave danger, potentially leaving large swathes of our community without access to necessary care – including life saving provision.
Jeremy Hunt and Earl Howe must urgently re-think their approach and take Clause 119 out of the Care Bill. Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign website: www.savelewishamhospital.com Contact; Hugh Shrapnel (Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign) email: firstname.lastname@example.org.