Campaigner calls on people to sign petition to stop closure of Hartlepool hospital

The University Hospital of Hartlepool
The University Hospital of Hartlepool

A HOSPITAL campaigner is calling on people to sign a petition to prevent the government being allowed to close hospitals without a fight.

Keith Fisher, who has campaigned passionately for the retention of Hartlepool’s hospital, is backing an internet campaign against a ‘closure clause’ in a new care bill due to go before Parliament.

Mr Fisher, who is also an independent councillor for Hart ward, is urging people to help the 38 Degrees petition reach 200,000 signatures in a bid to block the clause.

It calls on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to remove the section of the care bill that campaigners say will make it possible to close viable hospitals without proper consultation.

Coun Fisher said: “I would like everyone in Hartlepool to help us stop this legislation.

“I see this as central government trying to privatise the NHS and 38 Degrees are trying to stop them and we should all rise to that cause.

“I think it is vitally important, not only to us in this area, but all over the country.

“The clause will stop people challenging closures in court and make hospitals masters of their own fate.”

Jeremy Hunt recently lost an appeal against closing Lewisham Accident and Emergency.

Coun Fisher added: “The petition is currently on about 130,000 signatures and it needs 200,000 to go to a fuller debate in Parliament.”
He is also calling for people to write to their local MP in opposition to the clause.

Campaigners claim it will put lives at risk and say the government should think again.

The Care Bill is due to be debated and voted on in Parliament on Monday.

Campaign creator Louise Irvine said: “The clause will allow the government to close or downgrade any hospital in the country, with barely any consultation of local people, if there is a Trust in financial difficulties anywhere nearby.

“They will be able to appoint an administrator to one Trust who will be able to take decisions to fast-track the closure of hospitals in another area, no matter how successful or popular those hospitals are, using the unsustainable provider legislation that was designed only for insolvent Trusts.

“If it becomes law, this clause means that no hospital will be safe, no matter how successful.”