asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what inquiry he has now made into the closing of the Waltham Abbey war memorial hospital by the Essex area health authority without the promised local consultations; and whether he will make a statement about this and other such closures.
Area health authorities are required to consult on any proposals for substantial variation of health service except when the authority is satisfied that in the interest of the Health Service a decision has to be taken without allowing time for consultation. The Essex area health authority has decided that, in order to keep within cash limits, it needs to close temporarily the Waltham Abbey memorial hospital without allowing time for consultation. Should the authority wish to close the hospital permanently, it would be required to follow the normal consultation procedures. The Department has recently issued further guidance which emphasises that health authorities should consult community health councils and other interests on all substantial closures including temporary ones.