A Labour administration would establish a new agency to oversee reconfigurations of NHS services, the shadow health minister has told HSJ.
The organisation would also run public consultations on any proposed service alterations, and have the power to amend proposed changes as it saw fit, Andrew Gwynne said.
The new policy idea aims to restore public confidence in the process that leads to changes in NHS services.
While reconfiguration proposals can currently be referred to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, the agency envisaged by Labour would control the whole consulation process.
Mr Gwynne told HSJ: “Plans to reorganise services… are often presented to the rest of the world as a fait accompli. In reality, the local community’s views are not really heard.
“We think there ought to be a new independent body which can assess whether there really is a clinical case for reconfiguration.
- Leader: Healthwatch needs to punch its weight
- Election 2015: 18 week waits remains at risk
- Election 2015: The Tory manifesto will be shaped by internal tensions
- Have your say using #HSJelection
- Burnham tackles reorganisation fear over Labour plans
- Labour inquiry finds ‘evidence’ for repealing Health Act
“Organisations would need to present their proposals to this body and it would then be responsible for consulting with the community, and it could make changes to the proposals.”
Mr Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish, accepted alterations to health services were necessary but said plans should give local people the chance to “effect change”.
“Public trust has gone and that’s why we need a different process,” he said.
Mr Gwynne accepted the idea would likely need primary legislation.
His party would also seek to remove the powers of the health secretary to force through changes to local health economies as part of the trust special administration process.
His comments come as key Labour Party figures head to the party’s National Policy Forum this weekend to agree policies for its critical pre-election conference this autumn.
Christian Dingwall, partner at Hempsons Solicitors and a specialist in reconfigurations, warned the proposal could alienate the public further.
He said: “Local commissioners are supposed to take account of how services can be better delivered in the local community and you would hope clinical commissioning groups and [local] area teams would have the best understanding of what the public want.
“Having some national quango taking responsibility for in effect leading commissioning - because that is what reconfigurations are really about - seems to me to be nationalising the commissioning of health services.”
Mr Dingwall said the remit of a national body would need to be clearly defined as to when it would be required to be involved.
The idea emerged in policy booklet One Nation Fizz, written by 14 shadow ministers and Parliamentary private secretaries and launched on Wednesday at the House of Commons.
Its launch was attended by Labour leader Ed Miliband, shadow chancellor Ed Balls and deputy leader Harriet Harman and has the backing of Jon Cruddas MP, head of Labour’s policy review.
Mr Miliband told the launch “the battle of ideas matters” and praised the booklet’s policies. He said: “We have the right ideas for the future.
“In this book you can see what a Labour government is going to do.”