MP's anger over Norfolk NHS cuts

A Norfolk MP accused the government and health officials of “playing pass the parcel” after being told yesterday by a minister that the threatened closure of St Michael's Hospital in Aylsham was “a matter for local discussion and decision and not ministerial intervention”.

A Norfolk MP accused the government and health officials of “playing pass the parcel” after being told yesterday by a minister that the threatened closure of St Michael's Hospital in Aylsham was “a matter for local discussion and decision and not ministerial intervention”.

Following the comment in the Commons by health minister Andy Burnham, Mid-Norfolk MP Keith Simpson told the EDP: “That is the problem today. Trying to nail down responsibility and accountability is really difficult.”

Ministers say they have responsibility for policy, the allocation of funds and targets, he continued, and that within that framework PCTs have freedom of action - “but obviously they don't”.

Mr Simpson told the Commons that a Norfolk PCT consultation document stating that St Michael's hospital, and also Benjamin Court at Cromer and Cranmer House at Fakenham “could close”, had caused “widespread anger and dismay”.

In his 10 years as a Norfolk MP, he had not seen anger like it, he continued, and he cited the fact that the chairman of the Norfolk PCT, Sheila Childerhouse, had just lost her seat on Breckland Council to a 'Stop Hospital Closures' candidate.

“The minister should be aware that my constituents are convinced that the consultation exercise is a sham, and a decision to close St Michael's has already been reached”, he added.

Most Read

Mr Simpson stressed that “bungled reorganisation” had caused many of Norfolk's health service problems, and that the need to remove the Norfolk's PCT's deficit of £47m was one of the main “drivers” behind the proposals for St Michael's.

Local people were not persuaded, he continued, that proposals for the provision of more health care at home were a credible alternative to what St Michael's currently offers.

Mr Burnham said that the Norfolk PCT's budget had been increased from just under £840m in the last financial year to £932m in the current one, but he sidestepped a question from Mr Simpson about whether any of the extra could be used to help reduce the deficit. “I suspect it isn't”, the Norfolk MP said afterwards.

The minister said he did not dispute that there was a great deal of local attachment to and 'investment' in the hospital. Community hospitals were greatly valued, he continued, But, emphasising that the government was not interested in imposing change for its own sake by Whitehall diktat, he stated that people also wanted an improvement in services.

The objective behind the proposals concerning St Michael's was to provide more people - up to 25pc extra - with a “more convenient service”.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter