Hackney GPs warn “Hospital Closure Clause” amounts to backdoor NHS privatisation

Dr Nick Mann

Dr Nick Mann - Credit: Archant

GPs have warned a Tory Bill vying for the power to close hospitals with just 40 days notice amounts to back door privatisation and will threaten the provision of safe medical services.

Over 130,000 people have signed an online petition set up by campaign group 38 Degrees, calling for what’s been dubbed The Hospital Closure Clause to be scrapped from the Care Bill.

The clause which will give Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, and the Trust Special Administrator the power to close hospitals all over England - even if local people and doctors disagree - could be passed next Tuesday when a vote is taken in the House of Lords.

Any hospital could be closed under Clause 119, even if it is merely considered that a nearby hospital or Trust is at financial risk.

Dr Nick Mann from Hackney’s Well Street Surgery believes this the move is a “desperate measure” by Hunt to circumvent existing law and act in lieu of the proper bodies regarding planning healthcare needs for the country.

He said: “It is widely believed that the privatisation of the NHS is the primary agenda - leading to multiple pretexts being used to run down existing NHS healthcare services, in preparation for replacement by private sector services.

“If Clause 118 and the pending Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) legislation are implemented, large international healthcare corporations will have unbridled and unassailable access to take over the NHS in England, hospital by hospital - the promised ‘free market’ in healthcare will rapidly come to resemble the energy ‘free market’ in UK, and ‘free at the point of need’ will become meaningless.

Most Read

He continued: “Up to a quarter of hospital Trusts are deemed to be “failing”, primarily due to unaffordable PFI debts, which could be renegotiated if the intention was to preserve the NHS as a public institution.

“The Health and Social Care Act, followed by Section 75, seem to have been passed through Parliament contingent on a great deal of reassurance that this NHS restructuring is necessary, desirable and cost-effective.

“Conversations in Government are not reflected in processes happening on the ground, nor when reading the available evidence, which strongly suggests that this mixture of cuts and restructuring is a political choice, not a necessity.”

Hackney GP and secretary of City and Hackney division of the British Medical Association, Coral Jones, added: “This is a very undemocratic clause which Hunt is trying to sneak through parliament by attaching to an unrelated bill.”

A 38 Degrees spokesman said: “Cameron and Clegg ultimately carry the can for this law, but they’re keeping their heads below the parapet. Why? Because being seen to trash the NHS can lose you an election.”

A Department of Health spokesman claimed it would be in everyone’s interests to have “an effective regime for dealing with unsustainable trusts”.

“Patient care can be affected by issues in neighbouring NHS hospitals, so it makes sense for the Trust Special Administrator to be able to consider the wider local health economy,” he said.

“The Trust Special Administrator must consult the views of the public, commissioners and staff including clinicians of the trust in difficulty and other affected trusts - to make sure their recommendations deliver the best possible care for patients, wherever they live.”