Old Bexley and Sidcup MP James Brokenshire has launched a series of meetings with local GPs to assess their views on proposed changes to local hospital services. The local MP held two separate meetings with local doctors in Sidcup and Bexley on Thursday and Friday with more sessions planned in the next few weeks. The meetings with General Practitioners come in the wake of new Government criteria by which proposals to change hospital services are to be assessed. These make clear that support from GP commissioners will be essential.
The importance of the new requirements has been underlined to James Brokenshire in a letter from Health Minister Simon Burns. In his letter Mr Burns said that:
"...in future all service changes must be led by clinicians and patients, not be driven from the top."
The Minister also confirmed that NHS bodies with current reorganisation proposals - including those which are ongoing - will be asked to revisit their plans to ensure that they meet the Coalition Government's new requirements. Mr Burns said that he expected that this will require further work with the public, GP commissioners and local authorities.
Commenting James Brokenshire said:
"Before the last General Election we said that if both the public and GPs supported the retention of services such as A&E and maternity there should be no forced closures. The new strengthened criteria for NHS changes follows through on this commitment. It underlines the importance of public and patient engagement and says that the support of GP commissioners will be essential.
"I am in little doubt as to the public view on retaining services at Queen Mary's Hospital. But what is clear is that the views of local doctors will be pivotal in deciding what should happen.
That's why I've met with Bexley Care Trust and am arranging a series of meetings with local general practitioners.
"There has been some suggestion that the existing ‘A Picture of Health Plans' can continue regardless of the new requirements. I have been assured by local NHS managers that final decisions on the implementation of key service changes services will only be made if the Government's new criteria have been satisfied. The input of local GPs will be critical in determining the outcome.