Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt gains powers to shut good hospitals without consultation

A Labour attempt to prevent the move was defeated by 297 votes to 239

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, is to acquire sweeping powers to shut down local hospitals at short notice even if they are performing strongly.

The Government tonight thwarted an attempt by Labour and rebel Coalition MPs to block the move.

The controversy centres on a provision in the Care Bill which allows a hospital to be closed or scaled back if a neighbouring trust develops serious financial problems.

The power was added to the Bill after the High Court ruled in October that Mr Hunt had exceeded his powers when he decided emergency and maternity units at Lewisham Hospital, south-east London, should be cut to save a neighbouring trust which was going bust.

A Labour attempt to prevent the move was defeated by 297 to 239 votes, a majority for the Coalition of 58. Six Tories rebelled on the issue. The Opposition argues that the proposal amounts to more “top-down control” of the National Health Service following its reorganisation of 2011.

But ministers counter that the moves are in the interests of patients as they boost care standards across broad areas.

In fractious exchanges, Andy Burnham, the shadow Health Secretary, compared Mr Hunt to a burglar “changing the law to get his way”.

And he claimed the plans could result in an otherwise good hospital shutting because of its proximity to a failing one, with patients and staff powerless to resist the closures. “Hospital closures should be determined by clinical reasons, not financial ones,” Mr Burnham told MPs.

Labour claims that more than 30 cash-strapped trusts could be at risk if it was made easier to rationalise services across wide geographical areas. But the health minister, Daniel Poulter, derided Mr Burnham as a specialist in spin and pointed to his own career as a GP as proof of his good intentions. He said: “Mr Burnham is good at playing politics, he’s good at spin. I’m a doctor and I will always do what I believe is in the best interests of patients.”

The moves will give Trust Special Administrators, appointed by the Health Secretary, the power to shut or downgrade any hospital or A&E departments at 40 days’ notice. Critics included Paul Burstow, the former Liberal Democrat health minister, who tabled an amendment to guarantee consultation rights for residents and give doctors who commission services a veto over any reorganisation.

His amendment was defeated by 288 to 241 votes, a majority of 47, after it was pushed to a vote in the Commons by Labour. It was backed by seven Conservative rebels, although Mr Burstow himself did not support it in the end. He was appointed to chair a committee of MPs and peers overseeing the changes.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin visits her 1990s work ‘My Bed’ at Tate Britain in London, where it is back on display from today
artsBut how does the iconic work stand up, 16 years on?
Life and Style
life + style
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor