Times urges u-turn on hospital closures

PUBLISHED: 11:47 20 May 2010 | UPDATED: 10:13 12 August 2010

NJ2259	12-01-06	Bexley	Queen Marys Hospital, A&E,

NJ2259 12-01-06 Bexley Queen Marys Hospital, A&E,

CAMPAIGNERS who supported a major Times campaign have urged the Conservatives to honour a promise and immediately stop all forced hospital Accident & Emergency and maternity ward closures. Before the election the Tories pledged to halt Labour s plans fo

CAMPAIGNERS who supported a major Times campaign have urged the Conservatives to honour a promise and immediately stop all forced hospital Accident & Emergency and maternity ward closures.

Before the election the Tories pledged to halt Labour's plans for closing the vital departments at neighbouring Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup (QMS) this September.

The Times has battled since 2007 to save the busy A & E and has exposed countless flaws in the results and method of the 'A Picture of Health' consultation which led to closure plans. Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, also backed the campaign.

Under the current plans the already over-stretched Princess Royal University Hospital (PRUH), Farnborough will have to shoulder the burden of QMS' 999 cases.

Health campaigners warned the Conservatives "not to renege" on their pre-election promises which they called a matter of "saving lives".

Geoff Martin from London Healthcare Emergency, an umbrella organisation against hospital cuts in the capital, said local communities must help "jack up" the campaign.

He said: "The harsh reality is now dawning. The public needs to show their level of anger, if we don't the politicians will bulldoze right over us.

"We need a public campaign of resistance. The future of QMS depends on public pressure.

"By shutting QMS you might save money but the one thing you won't do is save lives.

"The only thing that will save it is an upsurge in the callings for politicians not to renege on their pledges. We need to stand up and fight and mobilise as quickly as possible. The time for consultation is gone - they are always loaded in favour of the health authority."

In February the Times revealed how admissions wards at the PRUH were being used to treat A & E overspill.

It meant patients were being kept in recovery wards for up to 10 hours where their loved ones were not allowed to visit them because they have to be kept sterile.

Julie Mott who has worked to improve healthcare in Bromley said situations like that would only worsen if the PRUH had to take on all of QMS' 999 cases.

She said: "The Conservatives must stick to their promises. That's why people voted for them. If QMS stays open it will ease the pressure on the PRUH."

The newly elected MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup James Brokenshire has been in close contact with Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and stands by his word to save the frontline services.

He said: "I have been firing off letters to the hospital trust, to all local GPs. There will be no forced closure."

Mr Brokenshire said he is investigating dismantling the merger of Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, QMS and the PRUH which formed the South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT) last year in a bid to cut management costs.

But SLHT currently has a deficit of more than £240million and Mr Brokenshire said the merger is not working.

He said: "I am concerned about what steps have been taken by the hospital trust, to see if they are trying to present it as a fait accompli."

Mr Brokenshire denied that it was irresponsible of the new government to keep the A&E open in light of the PCTs struggling to afford it, claiming savings could be made elsewhere in the NHS.

MP for Orpington Jo Johnson pledged his support to James Brokenshire. He said: "I am standing side by side by James Brokenshire. If QMS stays open it means there will be less spill over into the PRUH and ease the pressure."

However the Department of Health said it was too early to corroborate the claims by James Brokenshire.

A spokesperson said: "That promise was made on behalf of the shadow health secretary in a pre-election promise. That promise is not made on behalf of the government. We are only a week into a new government."

A spokesperson for South London Healthcare Trust said: "In the first 12 months since the merger there has been a marked improvement in the quality of care for patients with MRSA and C-difficile infections down to well below the London and national average, our survival rates now better than the national average, and with patients waiting shorter times for treatment for emergency and non-emergency care.

"We have received a letter from Mr Brokenshire about services at QMS. We are always keen to discuss the proposed changes with local MPs and have arranged a meeting between James Brokenshire and the Trust Chief Executive and Chairman for next week.

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