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NHS bosses insist consultation voters want to see change

PUBLISHED: 17:44 02 July 2008 | UPDATED: 14:57 25 August 2010

A REPORT has tried to justify plans to axe A&E units despite thousands of objections.

A REPORT has tried to justify plans to axe A&E units despite thousands of objections.

NHS bosses from across south-east London released a response to critical recommendations made by councillors in a report last Friday.

The report follows the results of A Picture of Health's (APoH) consultation on plans to downgrade services at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup, and University Hospital Lewisham.

In the consultation, the greatest majority of people who voted - 29.5 per cent - said they wanted none of the options put forward by APoH.

Another 13.1 per cent gave multiple or no answers in the response to the options provided. But the Joint Com-mittee of Pri-mary Care Trusts (JCPCT) refused councillors' recommendations to hold a new consultation if people did not support any of the proposals.

The JCPCT argued that the combined majority of people selecting an option, 57.4 per cent, was larger than those rejecting them outright, claiming this demonstrated support for change.

The report read: "It is legal given that consultations are not referendums, and the consultation questionnaire was not described as such."

Sharon Massey, Bexley council's member for health, said: "I thought their response was rather bland and predictable.

"It is almost irrelevant what answers they come up with because they have already made up their mind.

"They are holding off answering the real tough questions about finances and transport until after they have made their decision."

Before the consultation, your Times presented more than 3,000 signatures to Downing Street against health cuts and encouraged readers to say no to proposed A&E closures in the consultation. The JCPCT report took into consideration three petitions to save A&E services at Queen Mary's Sidcup signed by 9,967 people, and one signed by more than 500 fighting to protect Lewisham services. APoH also received 79 letters and submissions from organisations, including one from 23 consultants at Queen Mary's Sidcup slating the consultation (Times, March 27).

NHS London noted in the report that the consultation had to be held at the same time as Lord Darzi's Healthcare for London consultation, at the risk of confusing the public.

A survey of homes that received the APoH consultation document revealed that only half of the 208 householders could remember receiving it at all.

The JCPCT is expected to decide on one of the proposed options before July 22. If they choose any of them, it would result in the closure of A&E services at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup. If no consensus is reached by the JCPCT, a vote of hands will take place.

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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