Cabinet at war as ministers fight local hospital closures

Senior cabinet ministers have come out against plans to close hospital wards in their constituencies, in an apparent challenge to Department of Health plans to rationalise the NHS.

The Justice Minister Chris Grayling and the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith have opposed the closure of health facilities in or near their constituencies. And, in October last year, the Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was "not satisfied" with plans to shut down children's and maternity services in a Northallerton hospital.

Today it emerged that Mr Grayling had described plans to close an A&E unit in Epsom Hospital in Surrey as "sticking two fingers up" at residents.

In an email to constituents he wrote: "It is very obvious that our local doctors should have the main input in what happens. And yet the provisional recommendations have been put forward without them even having the chance to have their say.

"I have therefore written to all of our local GPs to ask them their views on the future of Epsom. If a good majority of our local doctors say they want to see changes, we will have to listen to them. But at the moment things seem to be moving ahead without them having the chance to express their views."

He added: "I hope the people who are carrying out this review realise today just how much they have effectively stuck two fingers up at Surrey residents in the way that this has started."

But despite calls from campaigners to support a campaign to save services, new junior Health Minister Anna Soubry has not yet publicly thrown her weight behind it.

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