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Mp Says Harefield Sale Is A Conspiracy

November 15, 2000 17:14: The proposal to close Harefield Hospital is a conspiracy of the highest order, according to MP John Wilkinson, who believes the decision was pre-determined at the top levels of Government.

He claimed the decision to close Harefield had been made two years ago by former Secretary of State Frank Dobson, and then passed on to the West London NHS Partnership Forum to bandy around in a token consultation process.

"All the straws point in the same direction, to a decision having been made at the highest level. Now they are just seeking justification for their decision," he said.

Mr Wilkinson said this had become apparant after numerous conversations with government ministers and health executives.

"Meetings were held by Frank Dobson. The decision was made by the powers that be right from the start."

He said the manner in which the proposal to centralise health services in West London and to relocate Harefield to a new site in Paddington had been handled was reminiscent of the former Soviet Union.

"It has been a totally undemocratic process. They have shown a disturbing contempt for democracy."

He also criticised the role of Kensington Chelsea and Westminster NHS Health Authority, who were charged with managing the proposal through the west London partnership, and yet have a vested interest in the outcome.

The Kensington Chelsea and Westminster Health authority are a member of the Paddington Regeneration Partnership a group of landowners and businesses with the objective of establishing Paddington as a premier residential and business district in London.

"In this case the vested interest of the Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster Health Authority is clear as they are the proposer, the arbiter and beneficiary of the project."

"In an ethical world the arbiter would be independent, and if there were justice such a flagrant interest on the part of the health authority would invalidate the whole consultation process." Mr Wilkinson had the last say in the consultation process which ended with a parliamentary debate on Monday night, and he believes that despite the deep-seated roots of the proposal, Harefield has a fighting chance of survival.

"In the end it is a political decision that has to be made by the Secretary of State for Health Alan Milburn, and with elections looming the weight of public opinion may prevail. People can mobilise and influence Government decisions," he said.

Mr Wilkinson said with the proposed new site costing around £360 million pounds, a figure that may be halved with the proposed sale of Harefield and Royal Brompton Hospitals, the NHS proposal is not the most cost-effective.

He said it was estimated Harefield Hospital could be developed for a cost well under £20 million. Various letters of objection to the proposals have been passed on to Alan Milburn including an 80,000 signature public petition and a report from Hillingdon Council. Mr Milburn is expected to make his decision in the new year.

By.Kent Milburn

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