04/03/2014 - Our NHS is under threat

Clause 118 (amended to 119) of the Care Bill has been dubbed the 'hospital closure clause'. If the clause is made law no hospital in England will be safe from financially driven closures.

Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, lost in the High Court when he tried to close the successful and solvent Lewisham Hospital. His response was to try and change the law. He want to be able to shut hospitals at the whim of Whitehall bureaucrats, without full and proper consultation with patients and the public, and without even any agreement from the new GP commissioning groups (CCGs).

This means that even if your local hospital is successful and financially viable it can be shut if a neighbouring NHS trust is failing - no matter how vocal local opposition is to the plans. Dozens of hospitals could be at risk of closure within 40 days, leaving communities suddenly bereft of local health care.

The government has also been busy appointing people who stand to make money out of privatising healthcare – such as ex M&S boss Sir Stuart Rose – to influential positions at the heart of the health service. Sir Stuart holds shares in Care UK, one of two private health companies bidding to take over the running of the threatened George Eliot hospital in Nuneaton.

230 MPs, most Conservative, hold interests in the private health industry. Can we trust these people with our National Health Service?

Since April 2013 70% of NHS contracts have gone to private and non-NHS providers, thanks to the government’s Health and Social Care Act 2012 which has unleashed a full blown competitive market into the NHS.

Clause 118 (now 119) of the Care Bill allows for the privatisation or fast track, financially driven closure (in as little as 40 days) of hospitals at the whim of Westminster bureaucrats – no matter how successful, solvent or supported by the local community it is. It is set to be debated by MPs in the first few weeks of March 2014.

Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, commented:

“The links between private businesses in health provision and MPs is of great concern. MPs are meant to be there to represent the people but increasingly they actually represent vested financial interests. The NHS is very important to ordinary people and we must act to defend it. I urge everyone to raise their voices against this fresh attack. Write to your MP and kick up a fuss.”