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Anger as GPs give green light to axing Sidcup's A&E and maternity unit

PUBLISHED: 17:17 20 October 2010

Dr Bill Cotter

Dr Bill Cotter

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The long-awaited GP review into the axing of a busy Accident and Emergency and maternity unit has been rubbished by campaigners after it gave the controversial closures the green light.

Ross Downing

The group of GPs who were tasked with investigating the decision by the local Primary Care Trusts to close the accident and emergency and maternity unit at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup, backed the plans in the report they handed to NHS London on Tuesday.

GPs from Bexley, Greenwich and Bromley, claimed the clinical evidence by committee A Picture of Health (APOH) which called for axing the busy units was ‘strong’.

However Old Bexley and Sidcup MP James Brokenshire said: “I place absolutely no weight on this report. It lacks the perception of independence, given that the chair of the group has been a keen advocate of A Picture of Health from the outset and was part of the review team recommending the ‘temporary’ closure at Queen Mary’s.

“It purports to recognise the serious concerns of patient choice and access to services in Bexley yet then completely discounts these issues as apparently irrelevant in a wider London context. It is set against a backdrop of the hospital trust having decided to close key services effectively setting the framework for the outcomes.

Queen Mary's Hospital

“For there to be confidence in any reassessment it should be conducted on an external basis from those involved in the original decision. The Independent Reconfiguration Panel should undertake this work. This was what was promised by NHS London and this is what should happen.”

The board at South London NHS Trust voted to close the units ‘temporarily’ while the review was still ongoing, blaming staff and medical supply shortages. Bosses at NHS London are now responsible for checking the report and will take the decision on whether the permanent closures can go ahead in late November - the same date the ‘temporary’ closures were due to take place.

Health policy expert Dr John Lister of pressure group London Health Emergency told the Times: “GPs are supposed to be the voice of local people and they have let them down. It was all dressed up as a clinical case but this was not the driving force - money was. The reality is that patients are being shunted round different hospital sites to save money. APOH’s evidence doesn’t take into account the caseloads and actually physical space in the other hospitals and the GPs have failed to take this into account. There is no new investment in the other hospitals to cope with the extra patients.”

Chair of Bexley council’s Health and Overview and Scrutiny Committee Ross Downing told the Times: “We are bitterly opposed to the review.

“Bexley is the most adversely affected borough but now the neighbouring boroughs are realising they will suffer too.

“Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital in Woolwich is missing its four-hour accident and emergency targets and going way beyond it. They are not meeting them most of the time. That is why they still send patients to Queen Mary’s, albeit until 8pm.

“The Queen Elizabeth and the Princess Royal in Farnborough will not cope at all. We have grave concerns about that. The Queen Elizabeth has not done the building work extending the A&E that was supposed to be finished in November. Now we are told that it will be finished next year.”

The GP who acts as a spokesperson for the doctors Dr Bill Cotter said: “Overall it was agreed that the impact of the reconfiguration proposals on choice was acceptable, on the basis of assurances that the Queen Mary’s Sidcup site will be maintained and developed, albeit in a different form.

“As a group we needed to balance the financial sustainability, clinical evidence, feedback from local GPs, key local stakeholders, incorporating views from across Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich.

“We therefore unanimously concluded that across Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich, the four tests were met.”

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