At least 13 members of Tony Blair's government have campaigned against the closure of services at NHS hospitals in their constituencies, it emerged yesterday.

Those exerting pressure over planned closures include senior ministers.

Last month Labour Party chairman Hazel Blears joined picket lines in her Salford constituency to protest over maternity services being shut at Hope Hospital, adding to pressure faced by Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt, in pushing through reforms of the NHS.

Other ministers who have criticised changes in their own constituencies include Home Secretary John Reid, who backed protests against the loss of A&E services at Monklands Hospital in his Airdrie and Shotts constituency.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health stressed that MPs were entitled to raise issues over changes at a local level.

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