Clause 119: “Shut down” powers against hospitals becomes reality

14 March 2014

Clause 119: “Shut down” powers against hospitals becomes reality

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will be acquiring wide powers to close down local hospitals at short notice even if they are performing well. The Care Bill provision in question-Clause 119- will allow a hospital to be closed, downsized or scaled back at short notice even if the hospital in question is performing strongly. This will be enforced on the basis that if a neighbouring trust develops serious financial problems, this is justification enough for the closure alone.

Mr Hunt had originally closed Lewisham Hospital in South-East London after deciding that A&E and maternity units there should be cut in order to save a trust nearby which was in financial trouble. After the High Court ruled against him stating that he had exceeded his powers by the closure, Hunt lobbied for a more far-reaching ability to enforce scaling back operations at hospitals if he felt nearby trusts where under financial threat.

Financial performance ahead of patient care outcomes

The pushing through of the clause has angered communities, campaigners and ministers who have argued that arbitrary closures based on the proximity of hospitals to one another deprived patients of care in specific communities even though the hospital functioning in those constituencies and localities were financially sound and offering excellent patient care services.

Andy Burnham, the shadow Health Secretary, compared Mr Hunt to a burglar “changing the law to get his way” further adding “Hospital closures should be determined by clinical reasons, not financial ones.” He, along with Labour, have claimed that the ease by which Hunt could close such hospitals arguably placed over 30 trusts at risk if it was made easier to ration services across the country on the basis of financial performance alone.

The new powers mean that Trust Special Administrators, appointed by Hunt, will have the power to shut or downgrade any hospital or A&E departments at 40 days’ notice.

Patients being penalised for financial inequalities

A primary criticism of the government plans is in the placing of financial targets over patient care, with those trusts and hospitals chosen for closure to face uphill struggles in trying to save facilities once the decision has been made to close them. The imposition of forced change in this way could arguably hurt public trust within the NHS. One of the primary criticisms of the NHS under the Francis Report was the placing of financial status and solvency far ahead of patient care on the frontline; it can be argued Clause 119 does little to move away from eroding that danger, and maybe encourages it.

What's your views on Clause 119?

Mistreatment.com would like to hear your views using the hashtag #Clause119 on Twitter. Dedicated to the protection of patient rights and patient care outcomes, Mistreatment.com recognises the excellent work many hospitals do, yet will Clause 119 penalise this simply because of financial inequality at a neighbouring trust? Is this a dangerous scattergun approach that directly compromises patient care in this country or is the introduction of Clause 119 the only way to tackle inefficient and methods at hospitals which are not cost effective? 

Mistreatment.com has a number of specialist departments which deal with enquiries relating to a variety of medical health complaints and medical related negligence areas. Mistreatment.com was created to listen to talk to people who feel that they had nobody at the NHS to listen to them when something went wrong. Members of the public who call through to us often want to raise an issue within NHS care so that somebody else is not affected the way their and their loved ones have been. Sometimes they call through to us to make a medical negligence claim because a financial settlement is needed to rebuild their life and to take care of their family. If you have experienced a form of medical mistreatment through emergency services, A&E or through surgery, for example, you can speak to the experts at Mistreatment.com