PARLIAMENTARY candidates in Swindon have condemned a move to bestow the Government with the power to close hospitals regardless of their performance.

MPs last week voted through a controversial measure, Clause 119 in the Care Bill, giving England’s health secretary powers to close or downgrade a hospital if a neighbouring trust is struggling financially.

The clause gives special administrators the power to make changes to services while they are trying to rescue failing NHS trusts.

Plans for change so far had required lengthy public consultation, and backing from local doctors before they could be pushed forward.

A total of 297 MPs voted in favour of clause 119, while 239 voted against it.

Labour parliamentary candidates heavily criticised the move branding it a threat to patients in Swindon.

Anne Snelgrove, parliamentary candidate for South Swindon, said she was concerned about the implications for the Great Western Hospital.

“Patients and NHS staff in our community care deeply about our Great Western Hospital and worry that these changes could mean our hospital could be closed by the Government,’’ she said. Mark Dempsey, candidate for North Swindon added: “The NHS is the Labour Party’s greatest achievement. We created it, we saved it, we value it and we will always support it.

“I am very worried that the Tories have voted for changes which mean that the Government can now close our hospital or change its services.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said clause 119 would help drive forward changes to ensure patient safety when trusts were found to be failing.