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Tories may not reverse hospital closures if elected

PUBLISHED: 17:17 17 June 2009 | UPDATED: 09:24 12 August 2010

CONSERVATIVES have been accused of milking a hospital campaign for votes after a shadow health minister has admitted that a

CONSERVATIVES have been accused of milking a hospital campaign for votes after a shadow health minister has admitted that a Tory government may not halt health service closures.

Shadow health minister Mike Penning has warned that health cuts in the area - including the closure of Queen Mary's Hospital A&E in Sidcup (QMS) - may have progressed "too far" to reverse them even if they win the next general election.

But campaigners accused the Conservatives, who came out in support of the Times campaign to save services, of "false pretence".

Mr Penning told the Times: "These changes are taking place very quickly and I am concerned they will have progressed too far for a new government to stop them which is one reason we need a general election as soon as possible.

"Any closures that do take place must be clinically driven and therefore the Conservative Party would impose a moratorium in these cases."

Many Tories, including London Mayor Boris Johnson, Assembly member James Cleverly and Bexleyheath and Crayford MP David Evennett, pledged their support for the Times campaign against the plans.

Tory-led Bexley council referred the decision by Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel and former Tory MP Derek Conway presented our petition, with thousands of residents' signatures calling for a stop to the plans, to 10 Downing Street.

Policy expert Dr John Lister from campaign group London Health Emergency said: "It is just false pretence. It appears they were just happy to milk it for a few votes. It is not promising for the residents of Bexley. The Tories have said they are going to exempt health cuts if they get into power, so one would think they would stop those which are the most irrational, like those in Bexley."

Under plans by A Picture of Health (APOH), A&E and inpatient paediatric cases will no longer take place at QMS and instead dealt with by Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough, or Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich.

Bexley Conservative councillor Sharon Massey said: "The moratorium policy is one the Tories have had for years, even before A Picture of Health. It is not until we are in power that we can have a look at the books. We can't make empty promises - promising one thing and then not being able to provide."

Labour party member and former chairman of the Patients Forum at QMS Charles Brooker, 78, said: "I don't think the Tories should reverse the changes. One of the things we have suffered from is one party getting into power and undoing what the other one has done, which is harmful.

"The NHS has had a problem when politicians start getting involved in running services and that has been the fault of both main parties.

"The problem with QMS is that it was too small. I know the changes aren't popular, but the great thing is that we are keeping QMS open and it is now part of a big health organisation."

marina.soteriou@archant.co.uk

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