Two Kingswood Labour councillors have written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to chase up his ruling on South Gloucestershire Council’s referral of the local NHS’s decision to scrap plans for a Minor Injury Unit at Cossham Hospital.
The council’s Health Scrutiny Committee used its power to refer the decision to the Secretary of State back on 21 January. Mr Hunt acknowledged receipt of the referral in early March and advised councillors that he had asked his Independent Reconfiguration Panel to comment on it by 7 April. However local campaigners and councillors remain in the dark as neither the Panel’s assessment nor Mr Hunt’s decision have been made public.
Now Councillors Gareth Manson (Woodstock) and April Begley (Kings Chase), who have both recently joined the Health Scrutiny Committee, have written to Mr Hunt for an answer.
Councillor Manson says:
“Cossham Hospital was promised a Minor Injury Unit as part of the Bristol-wide health plan some years ago and our Kingswood constituents remain committed to it, which is why so many people have been campaigning for that promise to be fulfilled. Councillors have done all we can to put pressure on the Government by referring the matter back in January, yet we are now 5 months on and still have no answer. It is beginning to feel as if the Government is just stringing us along.”
Councillor Begley added:
“During the recent election campaign the Conservative candidate - now MP - for Kingswood led us to believe that the lack of a decision was due to rules that forbid controversial announcements being made in the immediate run-up to an election. I was at a public hustings meeting on 30 April and heard him make that point. It is now over a month since the election and we still have no word from the Minister, so we have written to him to find out when he will share his Panel’s assessment and give us his own decision.”
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The full text of the letter reads:
Dear Mr Hunt
You wrote to the chair of South Gloucestershire Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Ian Scott, at the beginning of March informing him that you had asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to report to you by 7th April on its assessment of our Council’s referral of this matter.
Nothing further has been heard from you or your department. During the recent election campaign, the Conservative candidate in our constituency of Kingswood led us to believe that this was because of purdah during the pre-election period. As the election and your own re-appointment have been settled for some weeks now, we wonder why you have not yet provided a fuller response. Can you advise when you will respond to this referral which dates back to January?
Councillors Gareth Manson and April Begley