'Last Chance' Health Talks

A delegation of local MPs have underlined their serious concerns about the future of hospital services in South East London during a meeting with Health Secretary Andrew Lansley at the Department of Health in Whitehall. James Brokenshire (Old Bexley & Sidcup), David Evennett (Bexleyheath & Crayford), Bob Neil (Bromley & Chislehurst) and Jo Johnson (Orpington) highlighted the anxieties and anger amongst residents at the imminent 'temporary' closure of A&E and maternity services at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup and the pressures this would place on other hospital services and the risks that might arise.

Andrew Lansley MP, the Secretary of the State at the Department of Health, told the group that he understood that the temporary closure decision had been made by local hospital management on the grounds of patient safety and with the support of external clinical evidence. As such, it would be unprecedented for the Department of Health to intervene to impose any immediate change.

However, the Health Secretary reaffirmed that the temporary closures would not impact on his assessment of proposals for changes in the provision of hospital services and the review of 'A Picture of Health'. Mr Lansley said that notwithstanding any recommendations which may be made to him by NHS London, he would form his own judgement before announcing any final conclusions. The Secretary of State also indicated that he planned to visit Bexley to meet local health practitioners before the end of the year.

Commenting James Brokenshire said:

"The Health Secretary listened carefully to the points raised and underlined his own clear interest in the future of hospital services in this area. I think he appreciated the anger of local residents and the clear anxieties that people have about the impact of the temporary closures at Queen Mary's on both the Queen Elizabeth and Princess Royal Hospitals. There are no easy solutions, but the Secretary of State clearly understands the seriousness of the situation.

"Having taken matters to Downing Street and now to the Department of Health we've taken this issue right to the top of government. This is the final roll of the dice. We are in the hands of the Health Secretary and all we can do now is await his determination."