Cornwall hospitals petition debate rejects referendum

Labour Council member Jude Robinson, Labour MP Frank Dobson, Cornwall Council chairman Pat Harvey
Image caption Labour councillor Jude Robinson (left) and MP Frank Dobson (centre) originally handed in the petition

Cornwall Council has turned down proposals to hold a referendum over plans to move community health services out of NHS control.

The referendum proposal was heard in a full council debate triggered by more than 5,000 people signing a petition.

Petitioners signed to show their opposition for services to be run by a Community Interest Company (CIC).

The transfer of staff to the new county organisation was due to be completed by October, health bosses said.

Scrutiny request

Community Interest Companies (CICs) were set up under the 2006 Companies Act to "operate for the benefit of the community rather than for the benefit of the owners of the company".

Fourteen community hospitals, including facilities in Falmouth, Helston, Liskeard and St Austell, district and school nurses, and speech and language therapists will be affected.

After the Tuesday council meeting, Labour councillor Jude Robinson, who started the petition, said she was disappointed an amendment to have the subject debated by a health scrutiny committee was also defeated.

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust's acting chief executive, Steve Moore, said earlier in March that the transfer of staff to the CIC would be completed by October.

The Conservative-led unitary council introduced a policy last year allowing such debates if petitions had 5,000 signatures or more.

The CIC petition was handed to council chairman Pat Harvey by councillor Robinson and Labour MP Frank Dobson, who was Secretary of State for Health in 1997.

Health unions have also raised fears about the speed of the CIC move, which will have an impact on 2,400 staff.

The Department of Health said ideas for organisations such as CICs were "not new".

It said: "The NHS has always worked with others from the independent sector, from social enterprises and from charities."

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