Welwyn Garden City hospital closures ‘fail to meet criteria’

PLANS to close A&E and maternity wards at the QE2 Hospital in WGC explicitly fail to meet the Government’s new policy on NHS service changes, MP Grant Shapps has told health chiefs.

Mr Shapps made the claim this week in letters to Nick Carver and Anna Walker, the chief executives of the East and North Herts NHS Trust and NHS Hertfordshire respectively.

His letters, seen by the Welwyn Hatfield Times, followed last week’s announcement from Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, who pledged to review the decision to axe major services in WGC and centralise them at the Lister in Stevenage.

Under the new guidelines unveiled by Mr Lansley, a clear, underlying clinical reason must exist for NHS trusts to change the services they provide.

Any changes must also have the support of local GPs and give patients choice over where they are treated.

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Mr Shapps wrote: “I have spoken to the Secretary of State in person and he has confirmed this change in policy very firmly applies in the case of the proposed removal of acute services at the QE2.

“The Secretary of State has proposed that I arrange an urgent meeting with you.

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“In the meantime, since the re-configuration at the QE2 clearly does not meet the new criteria, plans for the closure of the A&E and maternity units should be placed on hold.”

Mr Shapps, who has long campaigned against the downgrade, added: “The guidance now clearly states that service changes must be led by clinicians and patients, not be driven from the top down.”

In a statement, Mr Carver said: “While we have not yet received Mr Shapps’ letter, we look forward to reading it and providing him with a response.

“We very much welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement and look forward to working with our GP colleagues in order to ensure that the final planned changes for the Lister and QE2 hospitals meet the Government’s new re-configuration principles.”

He added: “We will be urging that this work happens as quickly as possible to provide clarity to our current plans, which include the delivery of the new �47m surgicentre and �16.4m maternity units that are being built at the Lister.”

Jane Halpin, deputy chief executive of NHS Hertfordshire, also welcomed the Government’s intervention.

She said: “We will work with GP colleagues and our partners in the acute trust to make sure any changes we put forward meet with these criteria.

“Our approach has always been to work in collaboration with partners and the public in developing plans.

“We look forward to continuing our discussions with the strategic health authority and the Department of Health, who provide us with feedback as we work to respond positively to the Secretary of State’s requirements.”

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