John’s statement on Rotherham hospital board’s announcement

The hospital board are right to pursue a plan that keeps Rotherham as a stand-alone hospital working closely with other parts of the NHS.

It will be a tough job for the new hospital team because there are still problems from the past to sort out and all hospitals are seeing their NHS funding cut. I hope it means changes in the way the hospital works rather than cutbacks in services that patients will see. I also want to see changes which make the best use of the hospital’s highly-committed staff and avoid forced redundancies.

I’m pleased the hospital board have listened to our public campaign and rejected the NHS regulator’s pressure for a hospital merger, and I strongly welcome their aim to keep Rotherham hospital independent.

It’s clear that hospital bosses believe they can sort out the finances and continue the high quality NHS services we have in Rotherham. This is the only plan they want to pursue and the top priority now is to persuade the government’s NHS regulator in London to agree. As Rotherham’s three MPs, Kevin Barron, Sarah Champion and I will be meeting Monitor again in the New Year to support the case our hospital submits.

However, the board have kept the merger door too far ajar for my liking. I fear Government Ministers have a hidden agenda to see the NHS run by fewer bigger hospitals, so I will also argue that Monitor must allow Rotherham to take a hospital merger completely off the table. Merger would mean NHS decisions and services taken out of Rotherham, and the 2500-name petition we delivered this month to Downing Street shows there’s strong public support for keeping our hospital in Rotherham for Rotherham patients.

I’m also delighted that when the recovery plan goes in, the external US-led management consultants that Monitor forced on the hospital will be gone for good. There are big questions about how much they cost, what they’ve done for the money and whether they’ve really helped or hindered the hospital get back on an even keel.