A Labour councillor is warning people in Minehead to continue to be vigilant about the future of the town’s hospital. Maureen Smith, district councillor for Minehead South, says the hospital could become a target for the “circling wolves” of the private health industry.
Public concern over the hospital erupted when it was revealed that the minor injuries unit was to be closed at night during the summer. That decision was reversed after residents expressed their anger at a packed public meeting. A recent report that the hospital might close altogether was denied. But Maureen believes there is still reason to worry:
She says: “The recent concern that Minehead Hospital might at risk of being closed did not surprise me. Although I appreciate that the Foundation Trust has now said that there are no current plans for this, the residents of Minehead will have to be permanently vigilant as there are two factors which keep the hospital at ongoing risk.
“Firstly the Government has hived off the public health and wellbeing function of the NHS to local authorities. They are gamely taking on this difficult task and it may well sit well with their other responsibilities for social care But this is the part of the NHS which had no potential for making money, leaving the remaining parts of the NHS ready to be privatised and sold off.
Hugely increased costs
“Secondly , Minehead Hospital is , I think, the only new hospital in the country with no PFI contract on it, i.e. no ongoing debt contract to private funders. These contracts were this week blamed for hugely increased costs to the NHS as contracts are sold on for massive profits. Minehead Hospital was built with ring fenced money which was made available for community hospitals by the Labour government just as the PCT had completed plans for the building.
“This state of the art community Hospital would make a plum asset for the circling wolves of the private health industry and it will have to be defended in the future. Fortunately it is already clear that people of Minehead are well able to do this.”
Councillor Maureen Smith: 01643 709478