Controversial new measures giving the government powers to close local hospitals are purely about safety and accountability, according to Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris.
On Tuesday night, both Mr Morris and Eric Ollerenshaw, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, voted in favour of “clause 119”, which gives the health secretary the power to close or downgrade a hospital if a neighbouring trust is struggling financially.
The powers will allow the government to remove hospital trust boards if they are underperforming financially or clinically, and employ a special administrator to take over the operation without public consultation.
Mr Ollerenshaw said he listened to the arguments and felt comfortable voting in favour of the Care Bill.
But Amina Lone, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said the “power grab” meant that 32 communities, including that covered by University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT), were at risk of being made voiceless by the new measure.
She said that UHMBT is one of a number of trusts where Monitor is taking enforcement action and believes there is a significant or material risk over continuity of services.
In Parliament, 297 MPs voted in favour of the bill, while 239 voted against.
Ms Lone said: “Changes to hospitals should be driven by clinical, not financial, reasons with local people involved every step of the way.
“That is why we believe these plans are dangerous and wrong.”
But Mr Morris said that he had worked on the Care Bill himself, and that the new legislation was “common sense”.
He said: “I worked on this Bill because of the problems with healthcare we have seen in the Lancaster and Morecambe area.
“A lot of the things that went into the Care Bill came from lessons learned locally here in the district, and this is helping to shape how things work nationally.
“The last government created a lot of foundation trusts, which meant they became autonomous.
“Six months down the line, things were going wrong, and we have had to put legislation in place so that the secretary of state has got powers if things go wrong.
“It puts more safeguards in place and makes trusts much more accountable.
“We’re certainly not going to be shutting down hospitals all over the place and if a hospital is that bad, the public are not going to want it anyway.”