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Queen Mary's A&E and maternity ward could close at any time

PUBLISHED: 14:22 12 August 2010 | UPDATED: 13:00 16 August 2010

Hospital staff have been told that an A&E and maternity ward could close at any time due to concerns over patient safety.

South London Healthcare NHS Trust chief executive Chris Streather wrote to staff at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup on Monday warning them that units could close.

He claimed that staffing problems are so serious that the situation is to be reviewed weekly in the interests of ‘patient safety’.

Dr Streather told the Times that staff vacancies are dangerously high with up to 40 midwifery positions to be filled. He added: “The main danger is due to our staffing issues, in terms of having enough staff to run the hospital – it’s just getting worse.

“This issue is too politically hot for us to be making changes via the back door. We are not doing it quietly and hoping nobody will notice. We want to be open about these changes.”

The decision comes despite the announcement that plans to permanently close the A&E under committee A Picture of Health (APOH) were frozen while a review was conducted into its consultation process.

Dr Steather said that if the APOH recommendations are given the go-ahead, changes will be put in place as soon as six to eight weeks and by a maximum of 16 weeks from the end of the review.

He said that some changes would have to be implemented quickly to account for the added ‘winter pressures’ at the hospital.

He added: “When the delay of the A Picture of Health was announced, we produced a report saying that there were some risks to the quality of care if there was any delay in implementing the changes.

“If the review does not agree with A Picture of Health, we have to think of something else. Something else would have to solve the problems A Picture of Health was there to solve.

“There is no sense in carrying on with the status quo.”

The review is due to be completed this month, but the Sidcup A&E is already closed from 8pm to 8am and emergency cases overnight are transferred to the Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough, or Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich.

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