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PUBLISHED: 11:27 01 July 2010 | UPDATED: 18:05 25 August 2010

WHEN the Times launched its hospital rescue campaign more than three years ago thousands of readers pledged their support within a matter of days.

WHEN the Times launched its hospital rescue campaign more than three years ago thousands of readers pledged their support within a matter of days.

Residents from Bromley borough joined petitioners from Bexley and Dartford in a massive protest against a monstrous plan by the then government to close the Acccident and Emergency department of the Queen Mary Hospital in Sidcup.

Centred between so many heavily populated areas this hospital's A & E unit is one of the most accessible and arguably the most seriously busy in south east London.

In 2007 the Times believed it would be futile to close it. We did the math and any savings as purported by health officials would soon be swallowed up as neighbouring hospitals like Farnborough, Darent Valley at Dartford and Queen Elizabeth at Woolwich, faced extra pressure on already stretched resources resulting in extra costs for them. Already the Times had begun to expose the potentially lethal holes in the proposal. The Times petition against the closure plan grew and grew. In October 2007 we took your petition containing thousands of residents' names to number 10 urging the then prime minister (Gordon Brown) to step in and save the A & E from the axe.

Weeks later the Times revealed the maternity unit at Queen Mary was under seige from a cash strapped health department and the campaigners intensified their action. We reported your street marches, your waving banners of protest, letters to MPs, urgent demands to number 10. Your commitment to our campaign was intense. Your Times carried a number of hard fought for revelations resulting from Freedom of Information requests. We revealed the identities of those on the government consultation group, A Picture of Health, who had recommended the closures. We then spoke to surgeons, nurses, staff, patients - all deeply unhappy with the decision reached by the quango - APoH.

Many medical staff who bravely spoke out against the proposals risked their jobs by talking to your Times. But they came to this newspaper because they believed something valuable could be done to overturn the cost cutting threats now risking the lives of patients and damaging their own day to day wellbeing.

Campaigners were resolute. The Queen Mary Hospital must be saved.

Now almost three and a half years down the road of action we'd like to believe we can celebrate a serious breakthrough. The new coalition government led by David Cameron has suspended the A Picture of Health quango and all its ghastly recommendations.

This means a legitimate step forward in the campaign to retain a vital fully operational hospital in the area. For the Times and all its brilliantly resolute supporters this news must be recognised as positive.


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