LEIGH MP Andy Burnham has warned Royal Bolton Hospital could be at risk if MPs agree to give ministers sweeping powers to close hospitals.
Mr Burnham, who is the shadow health secretary, said clause 119 of the Care Bill — which was voted through the House of Commons today, Tuesday — would enable the government to shut the cash-strapped Farnworth hospital despite the views of local residents.
Royal Bolton Hospital has been highlighted as one of 30 trusts across the country that Labour are arguing would be ‘at risk’ if it is made easier to rationalise services.
The clause 119 amendment would enable the Department of Health to appoint a ‘trust special administrator’, who would be able to recommend changes to services across England and close or downgrade services within 40 days.
Ahead of today’s House of Commons vote Mr Burnham urged Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs to rebel and help block the clause.
He said: “This Government used to say it wanted to put patients and doctors in charge of the local NHS.
“Now health secretary Jeremy Hunt wants to ride roughshod over local communities and have carte blanche to break up the NHS without anyone else having a say. He must be stopped.
”With more and more hospitals in financial difficulty, this move could hit every community in the land and leave them voiceless in the face of changes to their services.
”Labour is clear: changes to hospitals should be driven by clinical, not financial, reasons with local people involved every step of the way. That is why we believe these plans are dangerous and wrong.
“It is time for parliament to stop an arrogant secretary of state from overstepping the mark."
Heather Edwards, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust's head of communications, dismissed Mr Burnham's claims.
She said: “Far from being 'at risk', this trust has a very positive future ahead of it.
"We have robust plans for our finances in the years ahead which have been approved by Monitor, we have one of the busiest and most successful A&Es in the area and, in partnership with other local health, social care and patient organisations, have ambitious plans to bring continuous improvements for the people we serve.”