Labour has accused the Government of neglecting the NHS' first responsibility to clinical care and instead, having a financial focus when making changes to hospitals.
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said:
Jeremy Hunt wants to ride roughshod over local communities and have carte blanche to break up the NHS without anyone else having a say.
With more and more hospitals in financial difficulty, this move could hit every community in the land and leave them voiceless in the face of changes to their services.
Labour is clear: changes to hospitals should be driven by clinical, not financial, reasons with local people involved every step of the way.
That is why we believe these plans are dangerous and wrong. It is time for Parliament to stop an arrogant Secretary of State from overstepping the mark.
Labour is appealing for Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs to help block measures it says will give ministers sweeping powers to close hospitals.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said clause 119 of the Care Bill - due to be debated in the Commons today - would allow Jeremy Hunt to "ride roughshod" over local residents' concerns.
Charging patients for A&E services "goes against the founding principles of the NHS" and the Government has "no plans" to introduce fees, despite GP support for the scheme, a department of health spokesman said.
Charging patients who use A&E goes against the founding principles of the NHS and there are no plans to introduce fees.
We know radical action is needed to tackle pressures on A&E. That's why we recently agreed a new GP contract, backed by doctors across the country, which will mean better care for older people out of hospital.
These changes are part of a longer-term plan to bring back the personal link with patients so GPs can focus on giving people the care they need and preventing unnecessary trips to hospital.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that patients should not be affected by the grounding of air ambulances:
We understand this isa precautionary measure and that contingency plans with other air ambulancesand ambulance services are in place to ensure patients are not affected.
The Royal College for GPs has said that the government's ambition to deliver more care to patients closer to home is not matched by resources allotted to general practice.
- Funding per patient has fallen 7% in England since 2010
- 80% of GPs say they have insufficient resources to provide high-quality care
- 47% say they have already cut back on the range of services provided
- Investment in general practice dropped from £8,865 million in 2009/10 to £8,459 million in 2012/3
Dr Clare Gerada, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, has warned that family doctors routinely see up to 60 patients in a single day due to a "chronic shortfall" of GPs and funding:
Our figures should send out a warning to Government and the rest of the NHS that we will soon have a catastrophe on our hands if urgent action is not taken to reverse the decline in funding for general practice and provide GPs with an appropriate amount to spend on each patient every year ...
GPs are keen to do more for their patients but we are heaving under the pressure of ever increasing workloads and diminishing resources, including a chronic shortfall of GPs.
Some of us are routinely working 11-hour days with up to 60 patient contacts in a single day and this is not safe or sustainable, for patients or GPs. We simply cannot do more without the funding and resources to back it up.
The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) is calling for "emergency" measures to close a £400 million financial "black hole" in services.
The family doctors body said funding cuts over the past three years are already having a "disastrous effect on patient care".
They said there has been a seven percent drop in funding per person in England from 2010 to 2013, due to the £400 million fall in investment and population growth.
Dr Clare Gerada, chair of RCGP, said that while more than 90 percent of patient contact within the NHS is with a GP, only nine percent of the entire budget is currently awarded to general practices.
The Department of Health said it is aware there are issues surrounding complaints in the NHS, which is why it has commissioned reports on the systems.
It is in the interests of everyone who cares about the NHS - from patients, to doctors and nurses - that patients can trust that, when they make a complaint, it is dealt with correctly and thoroughly.
We know that there are issues with how hospitals handle complaints and that's why we asked Ann Clwyd and Tricia Hart to carry out a review into the system.
We look forward to their recommendations.
The Department of Health is set to publish data that reveals a link between breastfeeding rates in different areas and hospital admissions for children.
A source said: "Breastfeeding provides all the nutrition a baby needs and also helps protect babies from infections. It has huge health benefits, and helps promote a strong bond between mum and baby.
"The variation in breastfeeding rates means children are more likely to end up in hospital for a wide variety of conditions, from eczema to gastroenteritis and asthma, and we want local authorities to use the data released today to identify where they can work with the local NHS to take action."
The department said councils could support women to breastfeed at local children's centres by making sure staff are knowledgeable and have the right information.
Commenting on figures that show accident and emergency waiting times have hit a nine-year high, a Department of Health spokesman said: "Overall the NHS is performing well and for the fourth week in a row 95 percent of A&E patients have been seen within four hours.
"Clearly the NHS had a difficult winter and A&E departments were under pressure. This is partly due to the fact that there are over one million more people visiting A&E compared to three years ago.
"We've been absolutely clear that the NHS needs to transform the way health services are delivered to meet the needs of an ageing population focusing more on joined up services and prevention.
"We are working with the NHS to address the long-term problems facing A&E. Sir Bruce Keogh's urgent care review is looking at the range of pressures on emergency services.
"In addition NHS England is ensuring that money is freed up and available to improve A&E services so that they are better able to cope next winter."