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I have left instructions for my body to be left to Oxford university medical school, partly because there is quite a lot of it, but also because I hope that, in that way, I can demonstrate that engraved on my heart are the words, “Keep the Horton General”. When Andy Burnham was Secretary of State for Health, my local general hospital was threatened with the downgrading of its maternity and children’s services. We went to the health overview and scrutiny committee, which referred matters to the independent reconfiguration panel. As a consequence, we now have consultant-delivered children’s services and a consultant-led maternity service. I, too, am slightly disappointed that the Secretary of State is not here to listen to the debate, because I am concerned about the proposals as someone who has had to contest the downgrading of hospital services.
I have some questions to put briefly to my hon. Friend the Minister. The “Dear colleague” letter circulated to us gives the impression that the powers in the proposals will be used only in exceptional circumstances, when services are clinically unsafe or when a trust is financially insolvent. However, hon. Members know that many trusts will end up with a deficit this year. I need the Minister’s assurance that the measures will be used in truly exceptional circumstances. They have been used only twice so far, in Mid Staffordshire and Lewisham. However, if TSAs are to be used simply if a trust moves into deficit, rather than going into a process of health overview and scrutiny committees and the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, that is a matter of great concern.