Hereford MP Jesse Norman has called for an immediate halt and a full and open public discussion after learning of potential plans by the NHS to place the County Hospital and its parent the Wye Valley Trust under the control of the South Warwickshire Foundation Trust.
The plans have emerged at a time when the County Hospital has been temporarily left without key members of senior management. In recent weeks the Wye Valley Trust Chair Museji Takolia has abruptly stepped down, while it has been announced that the Chief Executive, Richard Beeken, is being moved to another job.
Reportedly managing this process within the NHS is Dale Bywater of NHS Improvement, charged with helping the Hospital to emerge from Special Measures, on which it has been partnered by the South Warwickshire Foundation Trust.
The Care Quality Commission is expected to report next week on the Hospital's progress. But it now appears that the Board may be asked to approve a formal tie-up with the South Warwickshire Foundation Trust as early as this Friday, 28 October, without public notification or consultation.
Commenting, Jesse said: "I am very concerned at this information, and am calling for an immediate halt and a full and open discussion of any proposals by NHS Improvement for the County Hospital.
"The proposed link with the South Warwickshire Foundation Trust appears to amount to nothing less than a takeover of our Hospital, at a time when its Chair has just left and its Chief Executive has been moved by NHS Improvement itself.
"To compound matters still further, there has apparently been no warning and no consultation with staff, with patients' groups or with the general public, and no consideration of other options. As a result, we have absolutely no idea what these plans are, how they would work, who would be affected by them, what commitments the South Warwickshire Foundation Trust would make to the Hospital, and above all, what the impact would be on patients in Herefordshire.
"Under no circumstances should the Hospital or its board or staff reach, or be encouraged by NHS Improvement to reach, any agreement until these concerns have been addressed in a proper and orderly way.
"It is widely hoped that the Hospital will be taken out of Special Measures by the CQC next week. If so that will be great cause for celebration, and testimony to all the work of the doctors, nurses and other staff there.
"It will also be exactly the moment when NHS Improvement should be having a long and careful look at how to build up and invest in the County Hospital for the future. Instead, it is trying to push ahead at huge speed with its own plans, and leaving us all in the dark."