Protest planned as hospital shut-down Clause 119 debated in Parliament

Epsom Hospital could have lost its acute services under the Better Services Better Value review

Epsom Hospital could have lost its acute services under the Better Services Better Value review

First published in News
Last updated
Surrey Comet: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

Campaigners against a controversial law which could see hospitals across the country shut down with minimal public consultation are preparing to protest outside Parliament tomorrow as it is debated by MPs.

Members of GMB, the trade union for staff in the NHS, are to stage the demonstration against Clause 119, formerly Clause 118, of the Government’s Care Bill - the Hospital Closure Clause.

This clause states that a "trust special administrator" taking action in relation to a hospital trust in financial difficulties would be able to take action "in relation to another NHS trust, which is necessary for and consequential on action taken in relation to that NHS trust".

Campaigners argue this would give administrators, appointed by the Health Secretary, the power to close hospitals near a hospital trust in financial difficulties - as was the case last year with Lewisham Hospital, in southeast London. 

A judge ruled that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had acted illegally in proposing the downgrade, to the relief of thousands of residents and campaigners.

Surrey Comet:

Lewisham Hospital protestors outside the Royal Courts of Justice last year. Photo: Simon Way

Clause 119 provides clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) with just 40 days to consult on any changes proposed by a trust administrator, massively limiting the sort of public consultation which health campaigners believe eventually resulted in Surrey Downs CCG walking out on the controversial Better Services Better Value review which threatened Epsom Hospital

But the clause also states that the views of a CCG could be overruled by NHS England, resulting in local decision-makers potentially losing control over key reconfigurations of their hospital services.

Andy Prendergast, GMB regional officer for the Southern Region, said: "Clause 119 is a toxic addition to the Care Bill as it enters the Commons for the last time.

"It will allow the Secretary of State to close any hospital within 40 days.

"This is the Government’s response to their failure to push through the closure to Lewisham Hospital and represents an attempt to ride rough shod over local democracy.

"This legislation is an attack on our NHS and affront to the principles of local democracy and patient voice that was supposed to underpin the government’s reforms of the NHS.

"That could mean trust special administrators can make proposals to close financially healthy and outstanding hospital services simply because they neighbour another trust that’s in financial distress.

"If this clause becomes law hospitals will be at risk of having services shut down without their agreement, without proper consultation with clinical staff, patients and the public, and without even any agreement from the new GP commissioners."

Liberal Democrat MPs are believed to be formulating a "compromise amendment" to the clause which would see greater consultation and a veto given to local clinical commissioning groups if trust administrators wanted "to do a Lewisham", according to this morning's Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

The Government argues it is necessary to consider the wider health economy because patient care can be affected by what happens in neighbouring hospital trusts and reconfiguration of healthcare services is required to reflect people’s changing healthcare needs.

Epsom’s health campaigners have been vocal in their opposition to Clause 119, but MP Chris Grayling, has said it is a "technical clause" which gives him no cause for concern.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "The NHS is currently turning round a number of hospitals in special measures, many of which have had deep-seated problems for years.

"In extremis, when a trust goes into administration, it is necessary to give the administrator enough power to take the difficult decisions necessary to ensure patients get safe care.

"In such situations lives are put at risk if the problem is not dealt with swiftly."

The Care Bill entered the House of Commons today for its final debate before MPs.  If the Care Bill is approved by the end of this stage tomorrow, it will then go back to be considered by the House of Lords.  If approved by the upper house, it will have been given the green light for Royal Assent - the formality by which it is offically enacted as legislation.

GMB staff will take part in the rally at 11am tomorrow at College Green across the road from Parliament.

What do you think about Clause 119?  Contact Hardeep Matharu on the newsdesk on 020 8722 6346 or email hmatharu@london.newsquest.co.uk.

Comments (5)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

10:56am Tue 11 Mar 14

Jonny V Goode says...

If our MP, Chris Grayling, votes for this today it will show the utter hypocrisy of this Tory and Lib Dem government. They promised that hospitals would not be closed or services reorganised without public consultation and support. The powers that the Secretary of State will have could result in Epsom Hospital being closed down as it has been in debt for for many years. It will be equally hypocritical if Mr Grayling, having voted for these measures, then attempts to head a campaign to "save" Epsom Hospital. Mr Grayling can fool some of the people some of the time, but he can fool them all of the time.
If our MP, Chris Grayling, votes for this today it will show the utter hypocrisy of this Tory and Lib Dem government. They promised that hospitals would not be closed or services reorganised without public consultation and support. The powers that the Secretary of State will have could result in Epsom Hospital being closed down as it has been in debt for for many years. It will be equally hypocritical if Mr Grayling, having voted for these measures, then attempts to head a campaign to "save" Epsom Hospital. Mr Grayling can fool some of the people some of the time, but he can fool them all of the time. Jonny V Goode
  • Score: 7

11:01am Tue 11 Mar 14

LiberalsOut says...

MP's usually vote along party lines to ensure they keep their pension
MP's usually vote along party lines to ensure they keep their pension LiberalsOut
  • Score: 8

12:21pm Tue 11 Mar 14

Marie from Sutton says...

Another attempt at erosion of our democrathy
Another attempt at erosion of our democrathy Marie from Sutton
  • Score: 7

1:55pm Tue 11 Mar 14

Niki R says...

Members of the local Labour Party were in Parliament last night for the debate on the redevelopment of St Helier Hospital, secured by Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh.

Afterwards we were left asking several questions:

Why was Tom Brake not in the chamber to debate the redevelopment of St Helier Hospital? He was in the House, but ignored a request from his constituents to meet with him, even though we saw him dashing away from where we were sat an hour later.

Why was it left to Siobhain McDonagh, MP for the neighbouring constituency of Mitcham and Morden, to secure a parliamentary debate on the future of a hospital in Tom Brake’s own constituency?

Why, when Siobhain McDonagh has secured several debates on the topic of St Helier hospital, has Tom Brake never asked a question about St Helier in the House of Commons?

Why is Tom Brake refusing to use his position as a Minister in the Tory-led government to support the campaign to ‘Save Our St Helier Hospital’?

His constituents have a right to answers to these question.
Members of the local Labour Party were in Parliament last night for the debate on the redevelopment of St Helier Hospital, secured by Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh. Afterwards we were left asking several questions: Why was Tom Brake not in the chamber to debate the redevelopment of St Helier Hospital? He was in the House, but ignored a request from his constituents to meet with him, even though we saw him dashing away from where we were sat an hour later. Why was it left to Siobhain McDonagh, MP for the neighbouring constituency of Mitcham and Morden, to secure a parliamentary debate on the future of a hospital in Tom Brake’s own constituency? Why, when Siobhain McDonagh has secured several debates on the topic of St Helier hospital, has Tom Brake never asked a question about St Helier in the House of Commons? Why is Tom Brake refusing to use his position as a Minister in the Tory-led government to support the campaign to ‘Save Our St Helier Hospital’? His constituents have a right to answers to these question. Niki R
  • Score: 9

11:41am Wed 12 Mar 14

Michael Pantlin says...

It was a bad day all-round for the LibDems in Sutton, where the borough’s two MPs found themselves voting for Clause 119 in the Care Bill which will give Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt the power to shut down St Helier Hospital at just 40 days’ notice and with virtually no consultation with the public.

Paul Burstow, the Sutton and Cheam MP, was a junior health minister in the early days of the ConDem Government. Tom Brake, Carshalton and Wallington’s MP, is deputy leader of the House of Commons. Both have repeatedly pronounced their support for maintaining all services at St Helier Hospital, the future of which has been in doubt for some time, despite being rated as providing far better services than, say, Croydon’s Mayday.
Extract from Inside Croydon Website today.

But in the House of Commons yesterday, Burstow and Brake, accompanied by Croydon Tory MPs Gavin Barfwell and “Sir” Tricky Dicky Ottaway, voted for measures that will allow Hunt to close or downgrade NHS hospitals based on financial criteria rather than any judgements about service provision.

Clause 119 was introduced by the ConDem Government after public protest reversed its plans to close another good south London hospital, Lewisham, in order to balance the books elsewhere.
It was a bad day all-round for the LibDems in Sutton, where the borough’s two MPs found themselves voting for Clause 119 in the Care Bill which will give Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt the power to shut down St Helier Hospital at just 40 days’ notice and with virtually no consultation with the public. Paul Burstow, the Sutton and Cheam MP, was a junior health minister in the early days of the ConDem Government. Tom Brake, Carshalton and Wallington’s MP, is deputy leader of the House of Commons. Both have repeatedly pronounced their support for maintaining all services at St Helier Hospital, the future of which has been in doubt for some time, despite being rated as providing far better services than, say, Croydon’s Mayday. Extract from Inside Croydon Website today. But in the House of Commons yesterday, Burstow and Brake, accompanied by Croydon Tory MPs Gavin Barfwell and “Sir” Tricky Dicky Ottaway, voted for measures that will allow Hunt to close or downgrade NHS hospitals based on financial criteria rather than any judgements about service provision. Clause 119 was introduced by the ConDem Government after public protest reversed its plans to close another good south London hospital, Lewisham, in order to balance the books elsewhere. Michael Pantlin
  • Score: 3

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree