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A stay of execution

PUBLISHED: 16:26 29 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:47 16 August 2010

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to keep a surgical centre open are claiming a victory after health bosses revealed the closure date has been put on hold. Orpington Treatment Centre in Sevenoaks Road was due to close at the end of November but the date has been push

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to keep a surgical centre open are claiming a victory after health bosses revealed the closure date has been put on hold.

Orpington Treatment Centre in Sevenoaks Road was due to close at the end of November but the date has been pushed back after it was revealed there was a massive backlog of 700 patients needing operations before December.

Bromley Hospitals Trust (BHT), currently in £101 million debt, has been paying for patients to have operations in private hospitals to avoid paying hefty government fines for not meeting 18-week referral to treatment targets.

In an email leaked to the Times, acting divisional manager at Orpington Hospital, Claire Saunders, wrote: "We will need to substantially increase the numbers of patients on the waiting list that we are sending out to the private sector to upwards of 700 patients. In order to do this quickly the patients will all need to be phoned and asked whether they are fit, ready and willing to be passed on to BMI."

Now the Trust is aiming to close the unit by the end of March when it aims to clear the backlog of patients.

But campaigners claim the delay in its closure will only strengthen their case and on Tuesday Orpington MP John Horam called for a debate in the House of Commons to raise awareness of the campaign.

Former patient Julie Mott, who has gathered more than 18,000 signatures against the closure, said: "We will never give up until it stays open permanently.

"We will escalate our campaign because we fail to see why we have a £9 million elective surgery unit there ready and waiting and we are sending patients to the private sector.

"They are playing with people's lives."

Secretary of Bromley Community Care Protection Group, Sue Sulis, said: "I am pleased that the centre is staying open but it smacks of incompetence to me. There is no way they could have closed it the state the Trust is in.

"This will give time for consultation and it will mean that more patients are treated there rather than go to the private sector or Hillingdon or Ilford which is ludicrous."

BHT Chief Executive, Mike Marchment, said: "In discussions locally it is clear that with the willingness of staff, extra sessions could be put on to maximise the use of the surgical wards and three theatres at Orpington over the coming months.

"If we are able to treat many of these patients in that capacity the Trust will not have to lose the income for those patients to alternative providers. It has therefore been decided that the decision to repatriate services will be delayed for at least three months taking us to the end of the financial year in March."

katherine.nelson@archant.co.uk

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