Hospital heart row hits the House

SUFFOLK'S battle over heart attack care is continuing apace today after the fight reached the House of Commons.Suffolk coastal MP, John Gummer, brought up the furore in parliament, criticising fellow MP Chris Mole for his support of the controversial move which would see emergency heart attack victims no longer treated at Ipswich Hospital.

SUFFOLK'S battle over heart attack care is continuing apace today after the fight reached the House of Commons.

Suffolk coastal MP, John Gummer, brought up the furore in parliament, criticising fellow MP Chris Mole for his support of the controversial move which would see emergency heart attack victims no longer treated at Ipswich Hospital.

Conservative Mr Gummer spoke out during a debate over democratic accountability of local organisations, and highlighted his concerns over the ways the plans were pushed through by the East of England Strategic Health Authority (SHA), without consulting the public.

He told his fellow parliamentarians “There are no democratic arrangements of a strategic health authority”.

However Labour MP Mr Mole, who was in the chamber at the time of Mr Gummer's attack on the SHA and him, said: “I thought it was an almost deliberate misunderstanding by John Gummer of the accountability of NHS bodies which, as he fully knows, are accountable to the secretary of state for health but with the additional local process of the overview and scrutiny committees.”

As The Evening Star has revealed the SHA's joint overview body called for a consultation on the dramatic emergency heart care changes - changes which Suffolk's own health scrutiny committee did not know about.

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But the SHA refused to carry out a consultation and was due to press ahead until a review was ordered with just ten days to go because of public outrage.

Mr Mole admitted there had not been enough accountability over the heart attack plans and added: “It is patently obvious that the NHS should have been aware that there would be concerns in Ipswich and east Suffolk about this.”

Is the East of England Strategic Health Authority accountable? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

The debate

ACCOUNTABILITY and democracy were the subjects of a bill which sparked the heart attack debate in the House of Commons.

The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill would give councils the duty of explaining the democratic arrangements of other authorities, such as the East of England Strategic Health Authority (SHA), to the public.

During the discussion of the bill Mr Gummer said: “How can any organisation explain the democratic arrangements of a SHA? There are no democratic arrangements of a SHA.

“In my constituency, the SHA has just told my constituents that if they are going to have a heart attack they had better move somewhere else.

“They are going to be transported from Leiston or Felixstowe all the way across the countryside as far as the no doubt excellent hospital on the other side of Cambridge.

“That is a journey of more than 100 miles and they will be given 90 minutes in which to do it on the A14, which is often closed.

“When the health authority was asked whether the public could comment, the only person who supported it was the honourable member for Ipswich (Chris Mole), who seemed to say that whatever it said was perfectly all right.

“There was no public inquiry; there was no opportunity for the public to make any comment at all.”

Then the deputy speaker, Sylvia Heal, interrupted and said: “Order. Did the right honourable gentleman inform the honourable member for Ipswich that he was going to make those comments?”

To which Mr Gummer replied: “I am very sorry. I see that the honourable gentleman is in the House at the moment, and it is therefore normally acceptable to mention what is in the public domain.”

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