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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 March 2008, 17:33 GMT
Protest against hospital closures
Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup
Thousands of patients will be affected by the proposed plans
More than 5,000 people have signed a petition protesting over the proposed closure of services at an NHS hospital.

Protesters marched to Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, south-east London earlier, angry at the closure of the A&E, children's and maternity units.

Campaigners say if services are cut, patients will have to travel to Woolwich, Bromley and Dartford.

A Picture of Health, a group of NHS Trusts in south-east London, said no decisions have yet been made.

A spokesperson for the group said it is also listening to the public's views.

The NHS is a cash cow but there are ways to save money without doing what they do
Ian Clement, Bexley council leader

"We will be considering the petition as a formal part of the consultation process and we welcome additional comments," said the A Picture of Health spokesperson.

A Picture of Health says the reasons for the proposed unit closures are to improve the clinical quality of services at Queen Mary's (in Bexley), in conjunction with other hospitals in Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham.

But it says if the plans go ahead they hope to increase planned surgery, have an urgent care centre, children's and older people's assessment units and much more outpatient activity at Queen Mary's Hospital.

'Right thing'

It says the move is also to stop the large financial debts continuing to mount up in the four hospitals, which amounts to losing 400,000 every week.

The petition was handed in to the hospital on Saturday.

But Bexley Council leader Ian Clement, who led the march along with Bexley Conservatives, said there were other ways to save money.

He told BBC London: "The NHS is a cash cow but here are ways to save money without doing what they do. There is nothing with efficiency.

"It is about giving people a service. It's about doing the right thing, I understand that but people need their local A&E. People need this to remain a district general hospital."

Conservative candidate for the Mayor of London Boris Johnson also joined the protest.

The hospital's public consultation process ends on 7 April.

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