Page last updated at 17:53 GMT, Friday, 19 September 2008 18:53 UK

Protest at hospital ward closures

Hospital closures protest
Campaigners protested against hospital unit closures in March

Hundreds of people have held a candlelit vigil outside a south-east London NHS hospital to protest against planned ward closures.

In July health bosses approved the closure of the A&E, children's and maternity units at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup.

But implementation of the cuts has been delayed pending a government review.

Campaigners say if the closures go ahead patients will have to travel to other hospitals for treatment.

Restructuring services

Councillor Sharon Massey, who is cabinet member for Health and Adult Social Care in Bexley, said: "We are hoping to put pressure on the government so that they understand the strength of the feeling against downgrading our hospital."

The Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) approved A Picture of Health project, which aims to restructure services in Queen Mary's Hospital in the borough of Bexley, Princess Royal University Hospital in Bromley, Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Greenwich and University Hospital Lewisham.

Michael Chuter, chair of the JCPCT, said: "It strikes the right balance between the provision of higher quality clinical services and making best use of existing capacity, and reflects the overwhelming evidence that the clinical benefits of specialised care outweigh any small increased risk from travelling further."

It decided to close the A&E at the Queen Mary's Hospital and instead extend Urgent Care Centre services to 24 hours.

The maternity unit will also close but post-natal and ante-natal care and home-births will be available.

In August Bexley Council, which is against the cuts, referred the plans to Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, for reconsideration.

The Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee also referred A Picture of Health programme for government review.

In March 5,000 people signed an online petition against the planned closures, including London Mayor Boris Johnson.


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