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Review offers A&E late hope for survival

PUBLISHED: 17:34 07 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:58 25 August 2010

AN INDEPENDENT review of a controversial decision to cut emergency services at a hospital is due to begin.

AN INDEPENDENT review of a controversial decision to cut emergency services at a hospital is due to begin.

Following the Times' two-year campaign against proposals to axe A&E and maternity units at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup (QMS) a final investigation will be made for the Secretary of State over the next 10 weeks.

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) will consider proposals drawn up by healthcare reform committee A Picture of Health (APOH) before submitting a report on March 31.

A team led by IRP chair Dr Peter Barrett will interview patients, clinicians, staff and residents.

Sharon Massey, Bexley council's cabinet member for health, said: "I'm really pleased that the Secretary of State has accepted it is a case worth pursuing.

"We were concerned that the proposals were all about money and the financial problems faced by our local PFI hospitals, rather than the needs of patients and residents.

"From Bexley's point of view, it would be a fantastic situation if the Secretary of State dropped the plans for Queen Mary's as we would keep our vital units."

In September 2007 the Times took a petition signed by thousands of residents to Number 10 Downing Street, demanding that Bexley keep its vital services.

Politicians and campaigners repeatedly slammed APOH for providing 'inadequate' detail and expressed fear that the lack of an A&E unit in Bexley would put residents at risk.

It proposes to turn QMS into a planned surgery base with an Urgent Care Centre (UCC) for minor injuries, with vital services moved to PFI hospitals in Dartford, Woolwich and Bromley.

University Hospital, Lewisham would see its 24 hour A&E coverage reduced to 12 hours a day.

In March last year, 23 consultants at QMS signed a letter that read: "We cannot agree to recommend to our patients plans that contain so many omissions and uncertainties, as we would then take the blame for failure."

An APOH consultation held last Spring gave residents no option to keep vital services at QMS, and consequently the single most popular option was to make no changes at all.

Despite this, on July 21 APOH announced it would go ahead with one of its preferred options anyway.

The IRP investigation was requested by Bexley council, which started building a dossier of evidence against APOH's proposals last July.

Evidence will also be submitted by APOH to show that its consultation and decisions were legitimate.

Simon Robbins, Chief Executive of Bromley PCT, and current leader of APOH, said that whilst working with the IRP he would continue to develop plans approved by councilors.

He said: "They include planning for Urgent Care Centres at all hospital sites, developing services closer to where people live."

The final decision on whether to scrap the plans will rest with the Secretary of State.

Residents who want to contact the IRP with relevant information should call 020 7389 8055 or email info@irpanel.org.uk.

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