Hospital campaigners battle against 'Hospital Closure Clause'

First published in News

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save the Alexandra Hospital are encouraging people to urge Bromsgrove's MP to vote against a care bill clause that they say would make it easier to close A&E departments without consultation.

The Save the Alex Campaign group, which has been fighting against proposals to downgrade the A&E department at the Alex - the general hospital serving Bromsgrove - since plans were mooted as a cost-saving measure in 2012, has joined forces with national campaign group 38 Degrees to persuade MPs to vote against the care bill clause 119, dubbed the Hospital Closure Clause by opponents.

If the clause passes through parliament the groups say decisions on closing hospitals could be made in just 40 days with little or no consultation, regardless of local support and rob the public of their right to protest.

Save The Alex chairman Neal Stote said that the group had been assured by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, Dr Dan Poulter, that any decision on the future of the hospital would be made only after strict public consultation.

He is now concerned the clause would snatch this away.

He said: "Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust lost another £500,000 in January and is set to end the year £12 million in debt. This puts the trust at real risk of going into administration meaning clause 119 would come into force.

"We have fought too hard for the final decision to be snatched away from us – a trust special administrator decision that would be made on the hoof instead with little public scrutiny."

A recent independent review of A&E services in the county did not recommend downgrading the Alexandra Hospital, but the financial elements of the proposals in the report are still being examined.

Blanche Jones from 38 Degrees, one of the UK's biggest campaigning communities, said: "No government should have the power to close any hospital without listening to local people.

“It’s important that these decisions aren't made against the wishes of the local community, patients, and experts like doctors and nurses."

But Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid told the Advertiser that the bill's clause would not make it easier to close A&E departments, as was being suggested.

“The clause does not allow for the 'fast track' closure or downgrading of any hospital," the MP said.

"The Government has always been clear that full public consultation is required in any major changes to services.

"The Alex is hugely important for local people, and I commend its hardworking staff."

Redditch MP Karen Lumley said: "I am committed to saving the Alex and have always been grateful that throughout the past few years, the vast majority of us have made this campaign about doing just that and not about political point scoring or underhand tactics."

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