Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been criticised for ‘hiding from the public’ on a visit to Dorset hospitals ahead of a controversial decision to shake-up health services in the county.

Royal Bournemouth Hospital, Poole Hospital and the Department of Health all tweeted pictures of the cabinet minister on his visit to discuss the future of hospitals.

However members of the public were not told about the visit on Thursday – and the media was not invited in a move critics have branded ‘appalling.’

Jeremy Hunt did not respond to a Tweet sent by the Daily Echo inviting him to call to discuss his visit. 

Radical proposals, which are part of the county’s Clinical Services Review, include closing Poole Hospital's A&E and maternity units and instead creating just one emergency department and one maternity unit at Royal Bournemouth Hospital as the county's major emergency hospital, leaving Poole Hospital for planned care only.

Chair of Poole Labour Party, Katie Taylor, said members went to Poole Hospital to question Jeremy Hunt about the proposed closure of its A&E and maternity units – but she said they were told to ‘get off private property.’

She said: “Exactly what is the government trying to hide?

"Jeremy Hunt’s refusal to answer critics openly about the possible scrapping of our hospital’s A&E and maternity units is appalling.

"Labour’s pledge was to halt the immediate closure. Is the government pressing ahead despite local people’s demands to keep it open? Why is he meeting in secret? Why will he not say what his plans really are?  The government is underfunding and undermining the NHS with a view to privatising it. Is this why he’s afraid to meet the public?"

People took to social media to criticise the Health Secretary.

One user said: “It’s because they’re worried about all the angry protestors that would descend upon the hospitals. Mainly by off duty nurses and NHS workers.”

Another said: "When the Government's Health Secretary has to visit a hospital in secret it really shows he is not the right person for the job."

As previously reported, Dorset CCG is currently reviewing a full 250-page public consultation and decisions could be made in September ‘at the earliest.’

Poole Hospital and Royal Bournemouth Hospital said they will provide more information but 'the visit is still ongoing.'

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The Health Secretary regularly visits hospitals to assess progress and engage with patients and frontline staff.

“Local NHS, local authorities and other organisations within Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships are working, engaging with local people, to deliver more person-centred and coordinated care for patients.”

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