The crisis over government plans to axe A&Es and maternity units deepened yesterday as it emerged that at least a dozen Labour ministers are campaigning against the closure of maternity and child care services in their constituencies.
The minister in charge of maternity services, Ivan Lewis, was absent from the government maternity ‘tsar’s’ presentation on Tuesday, which was to promote regional centres and the closure of maternity units at district general hospitals.
Lewis is opposing the closure of the maternity unit at Fairfield Hospital, in his Bury South constituency.
A UNISON spokesperson said: ‘The Ministerial protests are the thin end of the wedge.
‘Many more Ministers are in an identical situation, where they are driving through measures in Parliament that are directly damaging their constituencies.
‘We call on them all to not just challenge the cuts in their own patch, but to publicly and emphatically reject the government’s policy which is creating the damage in the first place.
‘They are the only people that can halt this chaos. The buck stops with them.’
Other ministers opposing government policy in their constituencies are Labour Party chairman Hazel Blears, who has been on the picket line protesting over the closure of maternity services at the Hope Hospital, and Labour chief whip Jacqui Smith, who has campaigned against the closure of maternity services at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch.
Immigration minister Joan Ryan has written to health secretary Patricia Hewitt opposing the closure of A&E, maternity and children’s services at Chase Farm Hospital in her Enfield North constituency.
Culture secretary Tessa Jowell and constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman are opposing the closure of a 24-hour emergency clinic at the Maudsley Hospital, south London.
Defence minister Derek Twigg is opposing ward closures at Halton Hospital, Runcorn.
Work and pensions minister James Plaskitt is campaigning to save the full range of services at Warwick Hospital.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that the government pledged £750m to build 50 community hospitals in England at the last election only four such projects have been agreed.
To date projects in Sunderland, Hampshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset have been funded with £44.5m. One of those is a hospital, while the other three are community health centres.
Also, Leicester City Health UNISON yesterday slammed plans to axe up to 900 jobs and close 200 beds at Leicester’s three city hospitals.
University Hospitals of Leicester Trust – which runs Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester General Hospital and Glenfield Hospital – said it would be closing up to eight wards and cutting 900 jobs over two years to make savings of £90m.
‘They have put a statement out noting UHL’s (University Hospitals of Leicester) decisions but making no promises at all about increasing services in the community’.