STRUCTURE: An MP is to call for an urgent Department of Health investigation into a Lancashire hospital closure, after HSJ uncovered legal advice encouraging the foundation responsible to “run down” the facility.
Conservative MP for Fylde Mark Menzies said there was a “wider national issue” raised by the advice which was “very concerning”.
HSJ last week revealed the advice sought by cash-strapped Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, on the closure of its 40 bed rehabilitation unit Wesham Hospital.
A letter addressed to Blackpool’s claims manager Valerie Milligan, from Sheila Bennett, a partner at law firm Hempsons, said the trust had asked what its legal position would be if it closed the hospital without public consultation.
She listed several recent cases where she said NHS organisations had formally proceeded with consultation on hospital closures but had “effectively run down” the services before or during consultation “on the basis of arguments of efficiency”. This would reduce the threat of bad publicity and judicial review, said Ms Bennett.
The foundation trust closed Wesham – a 10 year old private finance initiative building – a week later, claiming it was an “interim transfer” of services pending “full consultation” later this year.
Mr Menzies said he would ask the DH to investigate the matter “urgently”. He said he had “met with the chair and chief executive of the hospitals trust and was at no stage informed about this legal advice”.
He said: “In light of the information uncovered by HSJ, people will feel a consultation would be pointless and believe the decision to close the facility has already been made.”
Trust chief executive Aidan Kehoe said: “The long term future of Wesham Hospital will form part of a wider public consultation. This consultation will include a review of the whole of the NHS estate to look at how we can maximise its use to best meet the needs of patients.”
Mr Menzies added: “It’s not just about the Fylde situation, serious though that is. There is something bigger here.”
There is a “wider national issue here regarding the ‘running down’ of hospitals as suggested in the legal advice”, which was “very concerning”.
He would be “highlighting this in my letter to the DH”.
Information released to HSJ via FOI request
19 January 2011