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Madam,

I have no dog in this particular fight but in the context of the wider debate on the proposed changes to the structure of the National Health Service it seems somewhat ingenuous for you quote the Prime Minister (Front page Matlock Mercury July 14) appearing to contradict the current closure policy when he is clearly speaking in the context of the proposed system of GP commissioning, (“a choice made by them with their GP”) which you and a number of correspondents (including one GP) resolutely oppose.

The present situation with the Darley Dale maternity unit is very instructive in understanding why the government’s proposals should be implemented as originally formulated particularly as the GP practices in Matlock have finally entered the fray and allowed a peep into the workings of the current system.

Our GPs, excellent as they are, have no input into where or how their pregnant patients are treated. Indeed once they have diagnosed the problem and invited you to choose a Consultant in the relevant discipline they have no input as to where or how any of their patients are treated for anything.

Doesn’t seem sensible to me.

When it comes down to it, this is a mere allocation of overhead problem for whichever apparatchik has the task of saving money. The Chesterfield Royal and Darley Dale are both overheads which exist irrespective of whether they are used or not. Close Darley, shift the work to Chesterfield and incur only one overhead. Hey presto save £300,000. Never mind that the maternity unit is part of the Whitworth hospital site which will now under recover its overhead on shared services.

The whole setup where decisions are made through secretive and unaccountable processes with no reference to real costs, alternative provision or customer satisfaction is reminiscent of the old Soviet Union.

I have some sympathy for our GPs who clearly identify that difficult choices, consequent upon financial restraint, are being made for which they have no responsibility but which nevertheless impact upon their patients. I do however take issue with the view that a reprieve for Darley is inevitably a cut elsewhere. If the local GPs had already the powers envisaged they would be developing the Whitworth Hospital, including the Maternity unit, for every procedure which can possibly be performed outside a major hospital. They would also be putting their minds to getting more and better treatment at lower cost for us through doing things differently and/or elsewhere, not least because they would know that the buck stops with them.

Providing the Government assures us that the NHS will always be universal and substantially free at point of delivery, no method of delivery should be beyond consideration. A Midwives’ co-operative?

Peter Hartill

Matlock