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Last minute government plans that will have the effect of forcing all the community hospitals in Worcestershire to merge with the Acute Hospitals Trust have been savaged by Mid Worcestershire MP, Peter Luff.
He says the community hospitals in Evesham, Pershore, Malvern, Bromsgrove and Tenbury Wells are local institutions whose future should be decided by local people, not ministers in Whitehall.

He was reacting angrily to an unexpected announcement from NHS Worcestershire on Friday that they were complying with government instructions to conduct an immediate review of health service provision in the county and reach conclusions before the general election is called. Commenting, Peter said,

“This act of vandalism is undemocratic and wrong for at least five reasons.

“First, such major changes must be made because local people want them, not because the government tells us we must make them.

“Second, the review process itself will be an expensive and unnecessary distraction from the other real challenges our local NHS faces.

“Third, although the document suggests other possibilities, it is an open secret that the Acute Hospitals Trust, facing serious financial challenges, wants to get its hands on the community hospitals. The other suggestions in the document - such as merger with the Mental Health Trust – are either impractical or too difficult to achieve in the ridiculously short timescale the government is imposing on Worcestershire.

“Fourth, as far as I can tell people just don’t want the changes. The county’s community hospitals have a special character that would be lost if they were subsumed into the huge Acute Trust.

“Fifth, and perhaps most scandalous, is the timing of these huge changes. We are being forced by a government in its dying weeks to make changes that the other Parties just don’t support and would not be implemented if this government loses the election.”

Peter will be writing next week to the Head of the Civil Service, Sir Gus O'Donnell, urging him to intervene to prevent such major policy changes taking place only days before the election is called. He will tell him that, at very least, all work on the proposed changes must be delayed until after the general election.

A special “Stakeholder Brief” published by the Primary care Trust late on Friday and distributed by e-mail claims that the government has instructed local health service organisations to make the major change, and says that new Department of Health guidance,

“… makes it clear that Primary Care Trusts aren’t expected to continue as organisations that provide services, and need to focus solely on commissioning, buying and arranging services in the future.”

The document explains that preparatory work had been done on a less worrying alternative than merger with the Acute Hospitals Trust, when it says,

“Although there has been a lot of work done in Worcestershire looking into the possibility of setting up a Community Foundation Trust, options such as this are now being discouraged and PCTs are asked to consider integration with existing Acute or Mental Health Trusts, closer working with local GPs or setting up social enterprises run by staff.”

The document continues,

“The review will have to draw initial conclusions by the middle of February with a formal proposal of a preferred option from Worcestershire to be submitted before the end of March. If this was approved a period of formal consultation would follow and the plans would be implemented by April 2011.

“A Project Board will then make a formal recommendation to the NHS Worcestershire Board who will decide on the preferred option at their meeting on 17th March.”


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