The problem is that the NHS is a very large, complex organisation and this means that someone must run it. And, sadly, that means Lansley must do something. Sometimes he has to make some decisions.
Before the election, when he was whoring as many votes as he could get, Cameron said that no A&E or maternity unit will close without the local community agreeing. Politicians often make such rash pledges but the Press usually challenge them. The Tory-compliant Press before the election chose not to ask Cameron to justify individual pledges and so now we are seeing the result: they were hollow promises.
After the election Lansley gave "four criteria" that must be applied to any NHS service re-configuration:
"First, there must be clarity about the clinical evidence base underpinning the proposals. Second, they must have the support of the GP commissioners involved. Third, they must genuinely promote choice for their patients. Fourth, the process must have genuinely engaged the public, patients and local authorities".The second and fourth clearly indicate that there must be widespread consultation.
Lansley inherited such a service re-configuration in Kent, where there was a plan to down grade the maternity unit at Maidstone Hospital and centralise consultant-led maternity services in a new hospital, Pembury. The policy has proven to be contentious. Local GPs are apparetly against the move (the local campaign group claims the figure is 97%) and more than 20,000 people have signed a petition against the move. While in opposition, the then shadow minister (now Minister of State for Health) Anne Milton expressed her opposition to the changes and the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate (now the MP) Helen Grant actively campaigned against the move.
Yet with all of this opposition it appears that Andrew Lansley has decided that the re-configuration will go ahead.
KentOnline revealed Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has given the go-ahead for Maidstone Hospital's unit to close. It means maternity services are set to be centralised 15 miles away at Pembury Hospital.KentOnline quote a letter from Lansley announcing the decision, in it he says:
My conclusion does not prejudice any future decisions made by local commissioners. If in future GPs as commissioners assess that a need for services at Maidstone is unmet, then it will be their prerogative to seek to redesign and commission services on that basis.This is the typical "have your cake and eat it" attitude that Lansley takes. He says that he is making a decision that clearly goes against his election pledges, and his four criteria (well, at least two of them) and yet he says "if you don't like what I have decided then at some unspecified time in the future, someone may decide to change it".
He really is a poor minister.