London A&E closure 'puts 500,000 lives at risk'

Khiran Randhawa, Health & Social Affairs Correspondent London Evening Standard

27 Jan 2011

Half a million patients’ lives will be put at risk by closures at a London hospital, MPs and campaigners warned today.

Chase Farm in Enfield will lose its A&E and consultant-led maternity units under plans approved by health chiefs.

Patients will have to travel to the already overstretched Barnet and North Middlesex hospitals, which could add up to 45 minutes to journey times.

MPs and campaigners say yesterday’s decision will leave the 500,000 patients treated by all three hospitals suffering.

It comes only weeks after Queen Mary’s in Sidcup became the first hospital under the coalition Government to close key departments.

The changes were first attempted in 2007 and now, after a government-ordered review backed by local GPs recommended the plans should get the go-ahead, NHS London has rubber-stamped the decision.

Nick de Bois, Conservative MP for Enfield North, said:

“This is just another level of bureaucrats who have a grim determination to push through a plan which is not wanted by the people of Enfield.

Barnet and North Middlesex are overstretched, they are absolutely packed, so where will the extra people go? Even Chase Farm has had to close its doors temporarily because of demand. The A&E, due to its close proximity to the M25, is crucial. It will put patients at risk.”

He added he would fight the decision, and is part of a group of MPs and councillors due to meet Health Secretary Andrew Lansley on March 7 to ask him to halt the plans.

John Lister, director of campaign group London Health Emergency, said:

“These closures will have a knock-on effect on other hospitals. The capacity is not there to deal with demand. These are merely cash-driven cuts, they are not part of a bigger plan to centralise services and expand neighbouring hospitals. It is the patients who will suffer.”

Chase Farm’s A&E unit will be replaced by an urgent care centre. A review is under way into whether there should be a midwife-led birth unit.

Ruth Carnell chief executive of NHS London said: “Local doctors have told us that the clinical case put forward almost four years ago has only increased in strength.”

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