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Closure was a done deal’

PUBLISHED: 10:42 14 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:41 25 August 2010

FROM beginning to end the clinicians and staff leading A Picture of Health (APoH) have insisted that the closure of our A&E unit was NOT financially driven.

FROM beginning to end the clinicians and staff leading A Picture of Health (APoH) have insisted that the closure of our A&E unit was NOT financially driven.

However the IRP reported that should 'no change' have taken place, the debt of the merged trust would have spiralled to £205.9 million by the end of the next financial year.

QMS's projected deficit of £26.4 million in March 2011 could be turned into a £500,000 surplus, the Panel noted.

The £101 million outstanding debt that has ballooned at Bromley Hospitals NHS Trust was not mentioned.

A key claim of APoH was that the proposals to centralise services, leading up to plans to close the A&E at QMS, was supported by and formulated with the help of '100 local clinicians'.

Yet following a Times investigation, APoH could not prove the number of attendees and could only provide evidence of just over 60 being invited to the consulting workshop.

Following our investigation, Parliamentary candidate for Old Bexley and Sidcup, John Hemming-Clark, of Independents to Save Queen Mary's Hospital, wrote to 68 QMS consultants and received 26 responses, of which 20 were against the closures.

One consultant said: "The present patient care guidelines are impossible to comply with in small units."

Of the consultation, the IRP said that it found "little evidence" that the public were able to analyse the complex information on the options presented by APoH.

The Panel also noted that a decision-making meeting held on Monday, July 21 last year was held in Central London and only announced the Friday before.

The meeting "could have been handled in a more inclusive and accommodating manner", the IRP reported.

Residents also told the Panel they thought the downgrading of QMS was a "done deal" and showed concern over "the lack of detailed explanatory information" available.

APoH chiefs argued it would be deceitful for the consultation to give Bexley residents a choice to keep their A&E unit.

Chris Streather, chief executive of South London Healthcare NHS Trust, said: "It would be dishonest to clinicians like us to go with an option that we didn't believe would provide safe care.

"At the moment we are propping the Trust up with temporary staff over a long period of time. That is not sustainable."

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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