To ask the Secretary of State for Health
(1) what his policy is on holding public consultations on reconfiguration proposals prior to any merger of NHS foundation hospital trusts that would entail such reconfiguration;
(2) pursuant to his oral statement of 10 September 2013, Official Report, column 837, on accident and emergency departments, in response to the hon. Member for Christchurch, if he will set out the criteria that he would use to assess whether downgrading the accident and emergency unit at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital would be to the benefit of patients;
(3) what powers he has to prevent an NHS foundation trust from downgrading one of its accident and emergency departments to a minor injuries unit; and if he will make a statement.
The Government is clear that the reconfiguration of front line health services is a matter for the local national health services. Services should be tailored to meet the needs of the local population.
Reconfiguration is about modernising the delivery of care and facilities to improve patient outcomes, developing services closer to home and most importantly—saving lives. We believe all service changes should be led by clinicians, and not driven from the top down. All major service changes should be subject to a full public consultation.
These principles are enshrined in the four reconfiguration tests issued to the NHS in 2010. All local reconfiguration plans should demonstrate: (i) support from general practitioner commissioners; (ii) strengthened public and patient engagement; (iii) clarity on the clinical evidence base; and (iv) support for patient choice.
It is the legal role of local authorities to form health and overview scrutiny committees that can engage with the local NHS and evaluate any proposed service changes against these four tests throughout the reconfiguration process. Should those committees have concerns about the NHS’ final proposals, including the way they were consulted upon, it has the right to refer those proposals to the Secretary of State for Health for an ultimate decision on the proposals.
Before making such a decision, the Secretary of State would seek the independent, expert advice of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.