Open letter to Craig Whittaker MP – Vote to keep public right to consultation over hospital closures

Dear Craig Whittaker,

The Coalition Government is taking a Care Bill through Parliament that will make it possible to close hospitals and A&E and other departments  without proper public consultation.

As you will know, the House Of Lords recently voted to accept  Earl Howe’s last-minute amendment to the  Care Bill. Amendment 168 essentially makes it possible for hospitals and A&E and other departments to be closed without public consultation – however successful, useful and popular they are.

The hospital closure clause 118, along with the rest of the Care Bill, will be debated and voted on in the Commons on 16th December. Clause 118 would allow any hospital to be closed down, or lose its A&E, maternity or other services, with hardly any local consultation.

I believe you have a responsibility to the public to make sure that this terrible Clause does not become law.

This is a live issue in Calderdale, since we are faced with the prospect of the merger of Calderdale and Huddersfield A&E on a site in Huddersfield, and the closure of Calderdale A&E.

Evidence for this is given in an 18 June 2013 letter from Dr Chris Clough, Chair of the National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT) to Martin Carter, Head of Communications and Engagement for the public consultation on proposals to change hospital and community services across North Kirklees and the Wakefield District.

In a section of the letter  that discusses rising A&E attendance, Dr Clough wrote,

“NCAT has also been privy to plans for Calderdale, with centralisation of services at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary…”

There is cross-party support in Calderdale for keeping Calderdale A&E open. Labour Councillors proposed a motion to the Council about keeping Calderdale A&E open. The local Conservative website says that they want to “Keep Our A&E Safe” and the Lib Dems website says, “Calderdale Lib Dems will fight to protect local A&E provision”.

This cross-party support for keeping open Calderdale A&E shows that those concerned are not just “left wing” people – as you reportedly described 38 Degrees campaigners, when you accepted the 38 Degrees petition against the Gagging Bill on Sunday 8th December – but members of the your own party and its Coalition partner.

Clause 118 in the Care Bill would remove the need to consult properly and thoroughly with the public over closures of hospitals and hospital departments – including Calderdale A&E.

I very much hope you will respect and protect the public’s right and need to take part in consultations about decisions that will closely affect us, and that you will vote against Clause 118 when the Care Bill debate takes place.

In Lewisham,  the government tried to fast-track the closure of Lewisham’s A&E and maternity services, to redirect patients (and money) to a different Hospital Trust that had large Private Finance Initiative debts to pay off to the banks.

The courts found that the government had broken the law. So now the government is trying to change the law.

If they succeed in passing Clause 118, no hospital will be safe.

If services need redesigning the law must ensure this is with proper and extensive consultation with local people. This process cannot be rushed. Decisions should not be based on the needs of investment banks. I trust you will hold the government to its promise that in the NHS there would be ‘no decision about me, without me’

I am also publishing this as an Open Letter on the Upper Calder Valley Plain Speaker website.
Yours sincerely,
Jenny Shepherd
If you would like to contact Mr Whittaker, here is his email address:craig.whittaker.mp@parliament.uk

Posted from Hebden Bridge, England, United Kingdom.