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The Government has plunged the NHS into a leadership crisis on the brink of the toughest year in its history.

Labour today reveals how hundreds of senior NHS figures, many with years of experience and public service, have in recent days received letters demanding their immediate resignation.

Chairs and Directors of Primary Care Trusts across England have been given pro-forma resignation letters to return by 31 December - even though the Government is still months away from finding out whether Parliament has approved its planned re-organisation of the NHS.

Andrew Lansley's shock move has caused anger and confusion across the NHS. It threatens to create a leadership vacuum at local level, with the NHS losing valuable people, grip and focus at a crucial time.

One experienced Chair has warned of a 'dire threat' to 'long-held and cherished standards' and 'corporate memory'.

Andy Burnham MP, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, said:

"Andrew Lansley looks increasingly like a man on a kamikaze mission to destabilise the NHS.

"Not only has he chosen the worst possible moment to re-organise the NHS, he now removes the very people who were crucial to holding things together.

"By combining the financial challenge with the biggest-ever reorganisation, the Government has created the conditions for a perfect storm that threatens to engulf the NHS in 2012.

"The Government is steering the NHS towards the rocks and, unbelievably, is now busy throwing captain and crew overboard.

"This is no way to treat people and no way to run an NHS. It threatens to plunge the NHS into a vacuum just when it most needs experience, grip and focus. And it is arrogance in the extreme and an affront to democracy to dismantle the NHS in this way before Parliament has given its approval.

"I call on the Health Secretary to call an immediate halt to these forced resignations. It is an unwarranted act of vandalism that threatens to cause great damage.

"I also call on the health professions to stand up to this reckless Government and support the alternative stability plan for the NHS that Labour has proposed.

"It is quite simply unforgivable to spend £3.45bn on a reorganisation with no democratic mandate.

"Time is running out for the NHS but it's not too late. If we stand together and stop the Health Bill, we can save money and give the NHS the stability it urgently needs.

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