Thursday, December 28, 2006

Minister in NHS hospital protest

Cabinet minister Hazel Blears has joined a protest over plans to close part of a hospital in her constituency.

The proposals for Hope Hospital in Salford, Greater Manchester, are part of the controversial
NHS shake-up.

A spokesman for Ms Blears, the Labour Party chair, said she believed closure would be the "wrong thing to do".

BBC political correspondent Robin Brant said it was rare for a cabinet minister to come out against measures directly resulting from government policy.

The actions will be seen as an embarrassment to the Labour party, our correspondent said.

'Hot issue'

The government is determined to push ahead with a re-organisation of the NHS, which will see some closures.

It aims to consolidate but improve the services on offer at other hospitals.

Mr Blears took part in Wednesday's demonstration outside the hospital over proposals to close and relocate its maternity unit.

Health chiefs want to concentrate maternity services in the region in three centres providing high quality intensive care for babies.

The final decision on moving the unit is not due for several months.

Ms Blears' spokesman told the BBC that she has had "informal contact" with the Health Secretary over the issue and plans to make formal representations.

He added: "She intends to campaign against it - it is a very hot issue locally."