Local commissioners that are not directly involved with failing hospitals are to be given the chance to respond to proposals put forward by trust special administrators, after the government last night adopted an amendment to the Care Bill.
The concession follows a campaign by MPs, pressure groups and trust representative bodies which called for an amendment to the bill’s clause 118.
Clause 118 was dubbed the “hospital closure clause” after it was proposed as part of the Care Bill following Jeremy Hunt’s High Court defeat in a case which examined the legality of his decision to scale back services at Lewisham Hospital, south London.
In that case, the judge ruled that the minister had acted outside of his powers by trying to reduce services at Lewisham Hospital.
The amendment had been put forward in the House of Lords by cross-party member Baroness Finlay. It was adopted and re-drafted by the government, before being introduced as its own amendment to the bill.
Baroness Finlay said: “I was delighted that the government wrote their own amendment because they recognised the need for commissioners to be on an equal footing to safeguard essential services.
“It’s excellent that the government has recognised the importance to give parity to all the commissioners of services and that the guidance will be drawn up independently under the Chairmanship of Paul Burstow.”
In yesterday’s Lords debate Conservative peer Lord Howe said the amendment would ensure that “final recommendations are informed by a proper understanding of the issues facing the entire local health system”.
The amendment was supported by NHS Clinical Commissioners as a move that “strengthens the voice of CCGs and further embeds the central role that CCGs must play in shaping hospital services”, a spokeswoman said.
She added: “However it will be vital that the TSA continues to work closely with CCGs as clinically led, statutory organisations…Short term recommendations imposed onto a Trust in special measures must not impact on the long term healthcare ambitions for patients and/or the health economy that CCGs are responsible for.”
Dr Steve Kell, co-chair of the NHSCC Leadership Group, said: “CCGs have a key role as system leaders and their strong partnership approach with NHS England and local authorities means they are ideally placed to make informed decisions on behalf of their populations.”
While Labour peer Lord Philip Hunt welcomed the amendment he is concerned that the TSA regime may still be misused.
“We remain concerned that this can still be used in such a way that it’s a back door way to reconfiguration without proper public consultation,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “When a trust fails and goes into administration, an administrator should make sure their recommendations do not harm essential patient services at other trusts in the local health economy.
“The House of Lords has now accepted government amendments to the Care Bill which put this beyond doubt.”