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Coalition unable to say when promised review into Sidcup health closures will be complete

PUBLISHED: 14:49 13 October 2010

James Brokenshire

James Brokenshire

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The coalition government has failed to provide a timescale for the completion of an ongoing review into the permanent closure of a busy accident and emergency and maternity unit.

Queen Mary's Hospital

South London Healthcare Trust voted unanimously to shut the A&E unit at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup by November because of “catastrophic” staff shortages, at a board meeting on September 29.

However, this decision was taken while the GP-led review into the closures promised by the coalition government is still being carried out. The review is scrutinising the proposals put forward by the committee A Picture of Health in 2007 and the controversial four-month public consultation it launched in January 2008.

Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup James Brokenshire said: “The review remains ongoing, however I am deeply disturbed that the ‘temporary’ closure of services at Queen Mary’s potentially pre-judges and potentially subverts the review which we have fought so hard to secure as it is difficult to see how it would not be influenced in an adverse way by the recent actions of the Trust. I have drawn my significant concerns to the attention of the Department of Health.”

Mr Brokenshire was unable to tell the Times when the review will be complete and its recommendations will be handed to the Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley.

When in opposition, Mr Lansley visited Sidcup and pledged to put a moratorium on the proposed closures, if his party was in government. Mr Brokenshire said he had yet to hear back from the Department of Health about his enquiries.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “Patient safety and high quality care must remain the priority for the NHS.

“The A&E and obstetric services at Queen Mary’s should temporarily close while there are concerns that they don’t meet the high standards that patients deserve. This will not impact on NHS London’s assessment of local reconfiguration plans against the four tests outlined by Sir David Nicholson and services will reopen if this is found to be best for the local community.

“The Secretary of State has pledged that, in future, all service changes must be led from the bottom-up by clinicians, patients and local authorities with an improved focus on quality. The goal of any change to services must be to ensure patients get the best care possible, delivered to the highest standards in the most effective, efficient and personalised way.”

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