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A&E to close within weeks

PUBLISHED: 18:37 19 August 2009 | UPDATED: 17:04 25 August 2010

PATIENTS have hit out at a decision to close an A&E to 999 emergencies more than a year before originally planned. Bosses at South London

PATIENTS have hit out at a decision to close an A&E to 999 emergencies more than a year before originally planned.

Bosses at South London Healthcare NHS Trust (SLH) have decided to temporarily close the A&E at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup (QMS) to blue-light emergency cases from Wednesday September 9, between 8pm and 8am.

In July last year, the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts decided to axe the busy department but the changes proposed by committee A Picture of Health (APoH) were only supposed to start from the end of next year.

Widespread opposition to the plans has seen thousands of residents march in protest, sign petitions and join the Times' Save Our Services campaign, which has been running for more than two years.

Now bosses at the Trust claim the 'temporary' closure is due to the failure of its international recruitment drive for doctors, which saw them attempt to recruit from other parts of the UK, Germany, Holland, Poland and South Africa.

Jean Clarke, 74, from North Cray, said: "It is a fiddle. All the protests, petitions and marches we have done and now they are closing it. It was decided before we even heard about it. I am scared because I would have to go out of the area. I don't believe it is a temporary measure. I don't believe anything they say."

Diabetic Michael Morris, 57, from Orpington said A&E staff saved his life in March after he suffered a Pulmonary embolism.

Speaking outside the hospital yesterday, he said: "I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that it saved my life.

"I would be upset if it closes because I use it quite a lot. I was there today for a wound on my leg which won't heal because of my diabetes.

"It seems to be an efficient A&E. I was in there for 45 minutes including being seen."

Rita Seale, 77, of Main Road, Sidcup, said: "My daughter is a theatre assistant and she said she is working harder than ever. It shouldn't be closing."

Jean Chambers, from Sidcup, said: "It is dreadful. I went to a meeting where somebody from the London Ambulance Service said it takes minutes to get to the other hospitals. When were they driving? At midnight?

"It is such a wonderful service."

From September 9, the Urgent Care Centre at QMS will extend its opening hours to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Night time emergencies will be diverted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, and Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough.

Dr Chris Streather, chief executive of South London Healthcare NHS Trust, said: "The decision to change the operating hours of the A&E unit at QMS has been taken solely in the interests of patient safety and it is imperative that we implement the change as quickly as possible to ensure that the safety of our service is not compromised.

"We are determined to put the safety of our patients first."

Bexley councillors have asked residents to send any questions they have about the closure to Ross Downing, who will be chairing a special Heath Scrutiny Committee meeting on the issue on Tuesday, September 1, at the civic offices in the Broadway, Bexleyheath at 7.30pm.

Councillors will be questioning bosses from the SLH and Bexley Care Trust and a representative of the London Ambulance Service.

No public questions will be taken.

Send your questions to Ross Downing, c/o Scrutiny Support Team, Bexley Civic Offices, Broadway, Bexleyheath, Kent, DA6 7LB or email scrutiny@bexley.gov.uk

marina.soteriou

@archant.co.uk

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