MPs and council bosses today pledged to fight for services at both Stafford and Cannock hospitals after it emerged their governing health trust was at risk of administration.
First steps have been taken in the process of putting Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust into the hands of administrators.
MPs in Staffordshire said it was now “crunch time” and they had to make a strong case to make sure emergency, acute and elective services were retained.
But news that watchdog Monitor has started a consultation over administration has sparked fresh fears for the future of the trust and its services.
Jeremy Lefroy, MP for Stafford, said: “This is a very disappointing decision. However, it reflects the fact that there have been significant and ongoing losses at the trust.
“The absolute key point here is that the administrators must ensure Stafford remains a hospital with emergency, acute and elective services, these are vital for the people of Stafford and Cannock.”
Mr Lefroy said he would seek an urgent meeting with administrators to stress the need to retain services.
The blow comes just weeks after the Francis Report laid bare the full scale of poor care at the trust between 2005 and 2008, which led to the deaths of up to 1,200 people at Stafford.
Robert Francis QC said there had been a “lack of care, compassion, humanity and leadership” and found failings at every level.
Staffordshire MP Bill Cash today said he would fight to retain services at Stafford Hospital following the latest news.
“This reinforces the necessity for an urgent debate on the Francis report on the floor of the House in Government time,” he said.
“The crunch time has arrived and we need to make our case as strongly as we can to ensure that emergency, acute and elective services are retained at Stafford and Cannock hospitals for all our constituents.”
If the administration move is approved by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Mid Staffordshire will be the first foundation trust to be put in the control of special administrators.
It follows a Monitor review of the trust’s finances, which started five months ago and concluded the trust is not clinically and financially sustainable in the long term.
The watchdog found the hospital is facing a £15 million deficit this year and would need to make savings of £53m in five years just to break even.
It would also require a £73m cash injection from the Department of Health.
Cannock MP Aiden Burley, meanwhile, has again raised questions about the timing of foundation trust status being given to Mid Staffordshire. He said: “Today, people across Staffordshire will be astonished that an NHS Trust, which was considered so outstanding by the last Labour government that they awarded them the highly-prized foundation trust status in 2008, will now been abolished after just five years due to financial incompetence and clinical failings.
“Never again will the NHS in Staffordshire be safe and secure when a system of targets is put above patient care, as happened under the last Labour Government.
“It now falls to Monitor and this Government to undo the damage done and try and secure the futures of both Stafford and Cannock Hospitals.”
Concerns have been raised in the past over the future of Cannock Chase Hospital, amid fears it is being stripped of its services. A campaign was launched last summer in a bid to safeguard its future.
Worried council bosses said the number of wards had fallen from nine when the hospital first opened to two and a petition was launched.
Councillor George Adamson, leader of Cannock Chase Council, today said the campaign would continue following yesterday’s Monitor announcement.
“The worry is that if it is being put into administration it does pose questions about the future of services,” he said. “The best possible result from all this would be if another NHS trust took over Mid Staffs.
“Everybody wants Cannock Hospital to stay open, we need it as a hospital, not just an office block.”
Meanwhile, Heather Wilhelms, of Stafford, said there needs to be a “clean sweep”. The 58-year-old saw her mother, father and husband die within 18 months of each other at Stafford Hospital.
She said: “People do not want Stafford Hospital to close and I don’t want it to close.
“Although I do think there needs to be a clean sweep.
“They need to bring someone in to sort it out once and for all.”