PUBLISHED: 14:14 30 September 2010
SUCH is the madness behind a move to close a busy hospital Accident and Emergency department this Christmas that campaigners are intensifying their fight to save the unit with ardent protest action on the streets.
Defiant phrases of Churchillian candour like ‘never surrender’ and ‘lives are worth more than politics’ resound from the mouths of all those who joined your Times nearly four years ago in the battle to keep the axeman away from Queen Mary Hospital at Sidcup.
The consequences of the A & E closure, decided unanimously yesterday at a board meeting held by the South London Healthcare Trust, will mean hundreds of needy patients will be forced to travel for treatment to an already stretched Farnborough Hospital in Bromley borough and Darent Valley Hospital, Dartford. Waiting times will increase and staff will be under even more pressure to cope with the overspill.
Health bosses claim Queen Mary A & E will be closed for just three months but no one the Times interviewed believes it will ever open again if the doors are closed and padlocked in November. Confidence in those politicians who used this sorry saga to milk pre-election votes is at an all time low although Bromley Assembly member James Cleverly has vowed this week at least to keep up the pressure.
Members of the GMB (General Municipal, Boilermakers, and Allied Trade Union) gathered on Wednesday to make its protest heard outside the meeting but campaigners views were ignored. The membership of this union stands at 600,000 and together with the thousands of names on a Times petition to save the Queen Mary Hospital those in government can not ignore the unrest resulting from this ludicrous decision to close the A & E - a decision dreamt up three years ago by a government backed quango, A Picture of Health.
In another attack on the health service GMB members employed by London Ambulance Service protested against plans to privatise the patient transport contract affecting staff working out of Barnehurst, Greenwich and Bromley ambulance stations.
It was your Times which used the Freedom of Information Act to expose the misnomers of the closure plan which included the fact none of the medical specialists backing the axe plan came from the area or really knew the hospital and needs of its patients. Then when your fight for Queen Mary’s Hospital became our fight the Times went to Number 10 in 2007 to hand over a giant petition.
At that time the prime minister in waiting, David Cameron, backed us and said he was ‘prepared for a bare knuckle fight’ to help save Queen Mary and other vital NHS hospitals facing the ill-judged scrutiny of detached executive committees.
Since then his silence and that of his coalition government over this issue has been deafening.
Inside your Times this week we talk to patients at Queen Mary’s. We’ll let them explain why it’s a grotesquely bad decision to close the local Accident and Emergency Centre. Read too Dr John Lister’s account of a most deplorable decision destined within weeks to put many lives at risk.