The public would be given a much bigger say over hospital closures under a Labour Government, Ed Miliband promised Monday night.
Calling for a “new culture of people-powered public services,” the Labour leader announced that NHS Commissioners would be stripped of their role in organising public consultation exercises on proposed hospital shake-ups. Instead the job would be given to an independent body made up of patient groups and local authorities.
Labour will not repeat the Conservatives’ pledge before the 2010 general election to call a halt to all hospital closures if it wins power. Mr Miliband warned: “No service can stand still.” He also stopped short of promising the public a veto over closures.
Giving the Hugo Young Memorial Lecture in London on Monday night, Mr Miliband said: “The problem with the current approach is that it creates a dynamic of decisions being taken behind closed doors, lacking legitimacy, with little public debate about the real reasons a change is being proposed. A Labour Government will ensure that patients are involved right at the outset: understanding why change might be needed, what options are and making sure everyone round the table knows what patients care about.”
The Labour leader promised to give consumers of public services “voice as well as choice” and end “high-handed, Whitehall knows best” decision-making.
He said the new policy on hospital closures was just one example of how Labour could involve people in key decisions affecting their lives. He was “not saying that change will never happen, but saying that no change will happen without people having their say.”
In his speech, Mr Miliband also promised to give users of public services access to information held about them and devolution of power away from Whitehall.