Doctors advocate 'super' hospitals

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TOP DOCTORS have advised the government to close hundreds of British hospitals to create huge "super" hospitals serving up to half a million people.

The proposals to cluster experts from all fields under one roof could lead to the shutdown of up to a third of British hospitals and many accident and emergency departments.

The report is currently with Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health. But last night the Department of Health insisted that the report by the Joint Consultants Committee (JCC) would not influence Mr Dobson's review of NHS hospital provision.

"The JCC has come up with many contradictory theories over the last few years and this looks like one of them," said a spokesman for the Department of Health. "It is not going to have an impact on our plans."

The doctors' report, which follows a year-long consultation with the royal medical colleges, states that many patients would be better served by a highly centralised hospital system. But it recognised that it would be controversial to close many medium-sized hospitals.

"It is important for the public to recognise that it is not possible for each locality to have its own small hospital to provide anything other than a restricted service," the report says. "This may well not include an accident and emergency unit or acute medical and surgical services."

The JCC said that the aim of the report was to match up populations with appropriate hospital provision.

"The paper is not just about the closure of hospitals. It is about collaboration and identifying the size of population to maintain a hospital of a decent size," said a spokesman.