DUDLEY South MP Chris Kelly has defended the Government’s Care Bill which campaigners fear could lead to the fast-track closure of hospitals.

The Conservative MP said he would vote with the Government to approve the bill which could see decisions made about local hospital provision in as little as 40 days and protections that enabled campaigners to overturn Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to close Lewisham Hospital in London stripped away.

Critics say Clause 119, previously referred to as 118 and dubbed the 'hospital closure clause', would allow swift hospital closures and reconfigurations in cases where the Government appoints trust special administrators - regardless of the hospital’s performance and the wishes of residents, patients and doctors.

Dudley North Labour MP Ian Austin told the News this morning he would not be supporting the bill, and he added: “I want to scrap the hospital closure clause because I think people who live in Dudley should have a say over the services we all use.”

His colleague Natasha Millward, Labour’s prospective Parliamentary candidate for Dudley South, has also voiced her concern over the bill saying it will “mean sweeping changes in health services, without proper meaningful consultation with local people, the CCG and local councillors”.

She also went as far to say “no NHS hospital will be safe” if the bill gets approval through Parliament.

Political rival Mr Kelly, however, claims fears are unfounded.

He told the News: “Clause 119 makes vital changes to the Trust Special Administrator regime (TSA) that will help protect hospital services and save patients’ lives.”

The MP said the TSA regime was introduced by Labour in 2009 to provide “a time-limited, clear and transparent way of dealing with local health services which are badly failing”.

He added: “This process is used only as a last resort, in the most urgent cases when all other efforts to ensure safe, effective and affordable local services have been unsuccessful and lives are potentially being put at risk.

“This regime has only ever been used twice (Mid-Staffordshire and South London) - exceptional cases where vast sums of taxpayers’ money were being spent on bailing out failed hospitals or where patients were suffering from dangerously poor care.”

He continued: “Turning things around in these most severe of cases requires that the administrators can take a look at the wider health services locally.

“My view - and that of the Government - is that the original legislation was always intended to allow the administrators to look at the wider health economy in this way.

“This is the only sensible way to resolve problems for local patients.

“We have a national health service, comprised of interdependent hospitals, and so it cannot be right that the administrators are currently only able to look at single failing providers in isolation.”

He said he would not be supporting an amendment to the bill, tabled by MP Paul Burstow, which would mean changes proposed for financially and clinically viable hospitals could only take effect after proper patient and public engagement.

He said the amendment would “effectively wreck the purpose of clause 119 and the regime as a whole” adding: “Clause 119 already ensures that commissioners of other affected trusts would have every opportunity to make their views known. It also lengthens the time the administrator has to produce their draft report and extends the formal consultation on the recommendations, crucially giving more time for involvement of the public and all key stakeholders.”

Mr Kelly added: “It is important to restate that this clause only applies to the administrator regime which is only used as a last resort in the most serious of circumstances.

“In these cases, it is vital to allow a TSA to look at the wider local health system, when that is necessary to address serious problems at other hospitals.

“In such situations, lives are put at risk if the problem is not dealt with swiftly and effectively.

“We need to have a regime of last resort that is able to address these problems in the interests of the taxpayer, patients and the public.”