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Politicians clash over A&E legacy

PUBLISHED: 18:10 26 August 2009 | UPDATED: 10:17 12 August 2010

POLITICAL parties have locked horns over the premature closure of an A&E department - before either have published their full health policy. Bosses at South London Healthcare NHS Trust (SLH) have blamed a lack of doctors for their decision to temporaril

POLITICAL parties have locked horns over the premature closure of an A&E department - before either have published their full health policy.

Bosses at South London Healthcare NHS Trust (SLH) have blamed a lack of doctors for their decision to temporarily close the A&E at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup (QMS), to emergency cases from, September 9, between 8pm and 8am.

This means that night emergencies will be diverted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, and Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough, more than a year before planned.

A health spokesperson for the Conservative Party said: "Labour have over the years reduced staff numbers. If we win the election, we will have a review of all planned closures to see if they are necessary.

"The Labour government's approach is to cut small hospitals and move much more towards central, bigger hospitals."

The Tory spokesman was keen to point out the party wanted an NHS opt-out for the EU Working Time Directive (EUWTD), which came into play on August 1 this year.

The directive reduced junior doctors' shifts to a maximum of 48 hours a week - fewer than the NHS was used to.

But if the Conservative Party got into power next year, it would be too late to have an NHS opt-out.

To repeal or change the directive would require a new EU law, again adopted by the Council of Europe and the European Parliament.

Labour parliamentary candidate for Old Bexley and Sidcup, Howard Dawber, claimed the Tories would not try and appeal the law if they came into power.

He said: "The EUWTD is to protect people and let's be clear - it is so people can't be forced to work longer hours.

"It is also there to protect people in jobs which have an impact on other people - to protect the public from people that have been forced to work longer hours.

"It would be silly to negotiate that.

"They would see this as one of those things that in reality they wouldn't want to try and do.

"If they get into power they would just drop the issue."

marina.soteriou@archant.co.uk

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