Tories accuse minister of hypocrisy over health cuts

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The minister in charge of maternity services was accused of hypocrisy after he failed to turn up to the launch of a Government report proposing a major shake-up of maternity care.

Ivan Lewis, who has campaigned against cuts in maternity services in his Bury constituency, did not attend the launch of the report by Sheila Shribman, the children and maternity tsar.

His absence prompted the Tories to taunt Labour by claiming: "Labour ministers don't believe it."

The report says some hospitals should be stripped of their consultant-led labour wards, so that specialist care can be concentrated in fewer centres. More midwife-led units should be provided locally with more support for home births for low-risk women.

But the strategy, which is already being pursued in some areas, has aroused local protests, backed in several cases by Labour MPs.

The Tories named five Labour MPs who have joined campaigns in their constituencies. They include Mr Lewis, who has protested against the closure of the consultant-led maternity unit at Fairfield hospital, Bury. Others named by the Tories are Hazel Blears, the Labour Party chair, and Jacqui Smith, the chief whip.

The Tory health spokesman, Andrew Lansley, said: "Government nationally seems to be saying that everything has got to change and smaller units have got to be shut down, while locally Labour ministers say they don't believe it and it's not justified. There is a hypocrisy in that."

A spokesman for the health department said Mr Lewis had been unable to attend the launch because of "constituency business".

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