Page last updated at 12:23 GMT, Thursday, 29 April 2010 13:23 UK

London's Whittington Hospital A&E closure plan 'halted'

Campaigner Shirley Frankin celebrates the news on Whittington A&E

Health Secretary Andy Burnham has called a "halt" to plans to close the accident and emergency (A&E) department at north London's Whittington Hospital.

The hospital may have had to merge its A&E with London's Royal Free Hospital under NHS plans under consultation.

Mr Burnham said it was "inconceivable that Labour would support the closing of the Whittington A&E".

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats said the move by Mr Burnham was a "U-turn".

'Simply inconceivable'

Both opposition parties have already pledged not to close the hospital's A&E department.

Mr Burnham said: "I will order a complete halt in the process that is being run and I'm asking NHS London to go back to the drawing board.

"As far as I've seen there is no clinical evidence or clinical support for any kind of downgrading or closure.

"On that basis it's simply inconceivable that Labour would support the closing or downgrading of the Whittington A&E or its maternity service."

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "This is a welcome U-turn by Andy Burnham."

"I and many others called for a stop to the flawed plans by NHS London to shut down local hospital units months ago and he accused me of resisting change. He has now completely caved in."

The NHS does need to save significant amounts of money but slashing and burning services will only cost more money in the long-term
Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat health spokesman

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: "Andy Burnham's sudden U-turn on Whittington hospital is welcome but it's difficult to believe Labour's commitment when they have consistently denied the scale of cuts facing the NHS.

"The NHS does need to save significant amounts of money but slashing and burning services will only cost more money in the long-term."

An NHS London spokesman said "there are no plans" to downgrade A&E or maternity at the Whittington.

"Any options for changes to services at the Whittington would have to have clinical backing and there would be a full public consultation before any changes were made."



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