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Anger as Sidcup A&E and maternity closure plan agreed

Queen Mary's

Queen Mary's

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Closing a busy A & E will put lives at risk and surrounding hospitals will buckle under the extra 999 cases, claim furious medics and patients.

South London Healthcare Trust voted unanimously to shut the 999 unit at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup by November because of ‘catastrophic’ staff shortages at a board meeting yesterday, having first announced its intentions a week ago.

The move is supposedly temporary until after the winter influx but many patients fear it will never reopen.

It is another instance of the Trust ploughing ahead with controversial A Picture of Health consultation plans which propose Sidcup’s permanent A & E closure, despite its demise supposedly being on hold while a review is carried out into its legitimacy.

QMS maternity services will also shut ‘temporarily’ as soon as the 999 services have been transferred to Princess Royal, Farnborough, Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich and Darent Valley in Dartford.

Staff have condemned the move claiming they have been badly treated and that it will risk lives. One senior member from QMS’ A& E, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “The Urgent Care Centre will not be able to cope. The A&E unit already backs it up. This is definitely not enough time to safely reorganise services - they would need until Easter at least.”

Queen Mary’s A&E treated 80,000 patients last year. This year the Trust estimates half of these will be dealt with by the hospital’s Urgent Care Centre, which will remain open, while 20,000 will go to Queen Elizabeth and roughly 7,000 to each of Princess Royal, Darent Valley and Lewisham Hospital.

Medical staff told the Times they feared hospitals would ‘fold’ under the burden of many thousands of extra cases. Both QEH and the PRU 999 departments have been well over capacity in the past two years causing massive backlogs in elective surgery as A&E patients were treated on other wards.

The current threat to the UK from a terrorist threat is severe, meaning very likely. QMS has the only A&E out of the three Trust hospitals with a facility and trained staff to cope with a chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear attack.

The QMS worker added: “If there was a major incident or a chemical or biological attack, which looks like it will happen very soon, we would be very vulnerable. The other two A&Es already fold under the pressure every winter and if this goes ahead they definitely will again. The staff are resigned to this taking place, no matter what our arguments against it are.”

Patient Marian Baxter, 65, from Barnehurst, who was visiting her husband at Queen Mary’s on Monday after he had a heart attack, said: “I have lived in the area since 1967 and the number of hospitals and maternity wards have reduced drastically. There are more people and less hospitals. This is our nearest and is it near to the A2 which leads on to the M25 and it is frightening to think what would happen if there was an accident. If my husband had to go by ambulance to Queen Elizabeth’s minutes would have been lost in a life or death situation.”

At yesterday’s meeting, GMB union regional organiser, Frank Macklin, said: “They gave staff no notice that they were going to announce it. We are very annoyed at the way it has been handled.

“The Trust has been very underhand. We don’t believe this is a temporary closure, it won’t reopen at the end of winter. It will put too much pressure on the other A&Es. Queen Elizabeth is already a very acute A&E and won’t be able to cope with the extra patients.”

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