The prospect of cuts to vital services in hospitals up and down the country remerged last week as an “independent” panel backed health authority plans to downgrade services at two hospitals.
The department of health has repeatedly said that it wants to see a major reorganisation of health provision, particularly in frontline services like accident and emergency departments.
This has led to huge demonstrations, particularly in small towns and communities, where local services are being axed and patients redirected on long journeys to hospitals further afield.
In East Yorkshire the Independent Reconfiguration Panel gave its blessing to a decision by Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare NHS Trust to move a heart unit and two acute medical wards at Bridlington Hospital 22 miles away to Scarborough.
While in north London the panel backed a decision to slash all front line services at Chase Farm hospital – including the accident and emergency department, and the maternity unit. They have told patients they must use poor public transport to travel to the Central Middlesex hospital.
Both areas have seen huge local campaigns against cuts in recent months.
In Bridlington 39,000 people signed a petition against the transfer of services, while protests at Chase Farm have attracted more than 10,000.
Campaigners provided convincing evidence that the cuts would result in a significant drop in the standard of care for the most vulnerable people, and that in some cases they could even cost lives.
The government had hoped that by giving the panel the job of deciding whether to implement the cuts it could avoid the political fallout from the decisions.
Campaigners are determined to ensure that this is not the case, and that local Labour MPs in particular face the anger of those who are set to lose their vital services.