May 25 2013 Latest news:
Marina Soteriou, Reporter
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Campaigners and hospital patients were supported by paramedics and passing motorists as they led a protest against the closure of a busy Accident and Emergency unit.
A crowd gathered outside Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup yesterday displaying banners declaring ‘Save our Services’ on the day the A&E unit was to be ‘temporarily’ closed at 8pm.
Bosses at the Trust have blamed the closure on staff shortages but have not yet given a date for reopening. It will also see the closure of Sidcup’s labour ward at 11am on December 13.
Paramedics, patient transport drivers and motorists tooted their horns in support of the protest as the crowds were joined by Old Bexley and Sidcup MP James Brokenshire and Bexley and Bromley Assembly member James Cleverly.
Father-of-three John Griffith, 70, of Walton Road, Sidcup, said: “This A&E was instrumental in saving my wife’s life after she had a stroke four years ago. She has used it since after she suffered further seizures. The service in the unit was wonderful. The people who are involved in the decision to close the unit should be ashamed of themselves.
Thousands of readers supported the Kentish Times Save Our Services campaign which was launched in 2007. Residents were due to hold another protest outside the hospital yesterday (Wednesday) evening.
Mr Griffith added: “This is the most disgusting, deceitful thing I have ever come across.”
The Conservatives had promised to halt the planned closures before they were elected in May but, despite the ongoing review into the decision to scrap the departments, hospital bosses decided to plough ahead with the changes.
Nearby hospitals in Bromley, Woolwich and Dartford are expected to take on the extra patients, even though some are at bursting point and have been forced to divert patients to Sidcup.
Retired lawyer Roy Barlow, 69, of Rectory Lane, Sidcup, said: “Last Christmas my daughter had to bring in her child to the A&E.
“I am very concerned. A 90-year-old neighbour had a fall in the middle of the night and had to call and ambulance but, because the A&E was closed overnight, we had to be taken all the way to Darent Valley. He only lives 10 minutes away from Queen Mary’s but instead had to be taken to a hospital half-an-hour away.
“I have two children and four grandchildren that rely on this hospital.”
At a meeting with health secretary Andrew Lansley two weeks ago, Mr Brokenshire was told there is little he could do to stop the temporary closure. However Mr Lansley did say he was treating the plans to axe services permanently as something he could take action on. He is due to visit Bexley next month to meet GPs.
Mr Brokenshire said GPs in Bexley are angry with NHS bosses for making it look like they are backing the closures. He added: “It is a very depressing day. I am so angry. This goes against the wishes of the local people and the politicians.
“When I met with Trust bosses, they said the moratorium imposed by the coalition did not apply to them and I had to correct them. Once something closes, it is hard for it to be brought back.
“I am going to keep on campaigning. The review is still ongoing. If the departments were unsafe to be open the Care Quality Commission would have stepped in. Three GPs were consulted for the GP-led review and many GPs are angry as they are being portrayed as supporting this. The wishes of the Trust have been achieved by the back door. The ambulance staff don’t want this to happen.”
The hospital’s chief executive Dr Chris Streather said 30,000 out of the 75,000 patients who go to the unit in Sidcup are treated at the 24-hour urgent care centre.
He added: “We have taken all of the necessary steps to make sure that the A&Es at Queen Elizabeth and the Princess Royal are able to safely treat an increase in-patients. The most important step has been to move more non-emergency surgery to Queen Mary’s which means there are more beds at our other two hospitals.”