'New bill could threaten Kidderminster Hospital in future' says campaigner (From Kidderminster Shuttle)
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'New bill could threaten Kidderminster Hospital in future' says campaigner
A MEMBER of the group set up to fight threats to services at Kidderminster Hospital has warned a new bill could make it easier for health leaders to shut the facility in the future.
Kidderminster Hospital Alliance spokesman Stephen Brown says clause 118 in the Care Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, could eventually be used against the town's hospital.
His concerns echo those of several unions who say the proposed law could put hospitals at risk of having services shut down without their agreement or proper consultation with patients and the public.
Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) would still be consulted on changes but their responses could be over-ruled by NHS England. The clause also puts hospitals at risk if neighbouring trusts are in financial trouble as special administrators would have more powers to reconfigure health economies.
In 2012, Kidderminster Hospital was threatened with closure during a money-saving NHS Worcestershire review into the county's acute hospitals. The process is on-going but Kidderminster is now likely to avoid further downgrading and could even gain services.
Mr Brown said if the bill became law, however, the hospital could face a possibility of closure in the future if Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust was ever asked to save more money.
Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier said he would look into the concern but added "nobody would close a hospital without talking to the local community, it would never happen".
Mr Brown said: "What if our hospital was under threat at some future point and the passing of this law and clause 118 made Kidderminster's closure possible without any reference to local people?"
He added: "We know the Worcestershire trust needs to save some £50 million and is going through a process that, although on the face of it now might mean Kidderminster is safe, what happens if they need to save more money at some future point and decide to pick on Kidderminster?
"In the end, signing up to this clause could cause Kidderminster to close if it faces a perfect storm of cuts resultant from difficulties elsewhere."
Mr Garnier said: "Like any concern I will look into it to see if it is a legitimate concern or not."
Mr Brown and Mr Garnier worked together as part of the alliance, set up to fight any threat to Kidderminster Hospital as a result of the review and included concerned residents, patients and politicians among its members.
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