Health minister Simon Burns has suggested accident and emergency services in London may not be subject to restrictions on closures under the Health Bill reforms.
Speaking at the Health and Social Care Bill Committee Mr Burns said the provision for services to be “designated” was intended for services “where there is one provider in an area”.
Those services that are not designated will not be subject to borrowing controls or tight restrictions over closures.
Shadow health minister Liz Kendall asked Mr Burns whether his definition of designated services meant that accident and emergency services in London would qualify.
He said: “A designated service will be one to ensure that across the country there are appropriate services to meet the needs of the people. There are a number of A&E services in London, so there would not be a need to designate them… If I was talking about Cornwall, A&E would be designated there.”
When questioned, Mr Burns clarified that he was not saying this will happen. “I was using it as an illustration to make a point, it was not a prediction,” he said.
The criteria in the Health Bill for designation of services is one where, if closed, “in the absence of alternative arrangements…be likely to have a significant adverse impact on the health of persons in need of the service, or cause a failure to prevent or ameliorate a significant adverse impact on the health of such persons.”
Under the new system designated status will be granted by Monitor.
The discussion came after Ms Kendall proposed an amendment to the Bill which would ensure that fundamental changes to non-designated services would still require formal public consultation. The amendment was not passed.