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140312paulburstow

Patsy n A person regarded as open to victimisation or manipulation; a person upon whom the blame for something falls.

Burstow n A patsy.

It seems a familiar story: The Tories plan legislation that is clearly no good at all – in this case, a legal clause to allow the closure of successful hospitals to prop up failing NHS trusts (Clause 119 of the Care Bill). The Liberal Democrats object and threaten to rebel. The Tories then offer concessions to make it seem less likely that this will happen and the Lib Dems withdraw their objections.

All seems well until the new rules are put to the test. Coalition MPs voiced disquiet at the powers being granted to allow a trust special administrator (TSA) to force through changes at a neighbouring hospital if they consider it necessary to save one that is failing. This power is considered likely to be used to save hospitals run under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), which are therefore saddled with huge unnecessary interest bills on the money invested by private companies.

We are told there will be some form of public consultation. Great. Here in Mid Wales, Powys County Council consulted constituents on its plans to cut £20 million from its budget for 2014-15. After the answers came back, the council’s cabinet ignored every single word of the responses and pressed on with its plan. Changes were only brought in after the rest of the council made it clear that they weren’t putting up with those shenanigans.

So much for consultation.

The minute a hospital is closed to prop up the PFI place next door, the Tories will blame Patsy – sorry, Paul – Burstow. They’ll say he had a chance to do something about it but didn’t.

What makes it worse for him is that Labour weren’t going to put up with his shenanigans and forced a vote on his amendment – which would have completely neutered the offending clause. Burstow voted against it – that’s right, against his own amendment, helping the government to a narrow 47-vote victory.

So much for him.

One politician who does seem to have the good of our hospitals at heart is Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham. What did he have to say about all this, during the debate yesterday (March 11)?

“What we have seen … from the right hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow), who positioned himself as though he was going to make a stand for local involvement in the NHS, is the worst kind of collusion and sell-out of our national health service.

“Just as the Liberal Democrats voted for the Health and Social Care Act, again they have backed … the break-up of the NHS.”

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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