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Residents say NO to A&E closures

PUBLISHED: 11:40 26 June 2008 | UPDATED: 10:17 12 August 2010

THE majority of residents who responded to a consultation have rejected options to change A&E services in the area. A third of south east London residents who responded to the A Picture of Health (APoH) consultation into downgrading health services in th

THE majority of residents who responded to a consultation have rejected options to change A&E services in the area.

A third of south east London residents who responded to the A Picture of Health (APoH) consultation into downgrading health services in the area said that none of the proposed options were suitable.

Some 2,469 residents rejected any option to close the A&E at Queen Mary Hospital, Sidcup, while only 1,949 elected to chose the most popular closure option out of the total three.

Director of the Centre for Health Management at the Imperial College London, Professor Rifat Atun, who presented the consultation results at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich last Friday, said most of the 8,374 replies were from Bromley and Bexley residents, whom he said had responded "passionately".

Pointing to a slide which showed that the majority of respondents did not want any of the options, he said: "The results are quite clear for the decision makers to see and they must take the views of the public very seriously." All options in the consultation proposed to close the A&E at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup.

Option one - to keep an A&E department in Lewisham but to stop emergency surgery or paediatric services - was chosen by 23.3 per cent respondents.

Option two - to keep A&E as it is in Lewisham but take away children's assessment and treatment services - was chosen by 17.8 per cent.

Option three, closing the A&E at Lewisham, was chosen by 16.3 per cent.

During the heated meeting, furious residents and health workers quizzed Professor Atun, appointed as an impartial interpreter of the results, on the findings and demanded answers from APoH officials.

A microphone was passed around the audience to try to keep order but the atmosphere was tense and voices became raised on several occasions.

Bexley Pensioners' Forum's Joe Starling, said: "I want to know where the buck stops, is this it now? It's been passed from one authority to the next."

Lynne Ramsay was applauded when she said: "Imperial College has done an excellent job in interpreting the results but the data was not reliable in the first place.

"People are really, really concerned. We need immediate access to emergency care, it's the difference between life and death."

Professor Atun explained that people are concerned about reducing hospital infections and having the best use of specialist doctors and nurses but are less concerned about the type of building they receive care in.

Speaking after the results, pensioner John Bell, 69, of Cloonmore Avenue, Orpington, said: "This is a complete and utter cover up. Most of the people did not like any of the options. It's a disgrace and there should be a new consultation where they tell the truth.

"The Imperial College has done a good job, but the way the questions were worded in the first place was so confusing that nobody understood it. It's a complete farce."

Mr Bell's wife and Chair of Bexley Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Margaret Bell, 78, said: "This consultation is disgusting, there is not going to be a health service soon. It's rotten, rotten all the way through."

Consultant Rheumatologist at Queen Mary's, Sidcup, Dr Andrew Bamji, said: "There should be a judicial review. Some 22 clinicians from Queen Mary's signed a letter objecting to the proposals.

"We told APoH that we did not accept their financial arguments and that there are significant clinical risks.

"I basically received a letter back telling me APoH don't care about my views because they have 100 of their own clinicians who support the options. But if you multiply our 22 by the four hospitals concerned then you're near enough at 100.

"In the past, clinicians were there to help make people better. Now we're here to help managers save money."

Assembly Member for Bexley and Bromley, James Cleverly, also condemned the consultation.

He said: "People were forced in to picking options. They were told that not embracing change was not an option. Many people were swayed and steered in to making a decision.

"The Department of Health (DoH) needs to take a step back and take a long hard look at this. It has been obsessed with getting the results rather than listening to what people want.

"There are between 10,000 and 14,000 responses saying people don't want any of these options which dwarf those which do. If the DoH insists on railroading people's views then they're in for a lot of trouble."

A final decision is expected before July 22 when Parliament goes in to recess.

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