Shadow care minister refuses to guarantee King George A&E future
17:27 07 August 2014
Shadow care minister Liz Kendall came to Ilford today to promise a Labour government would be “straight with you” on changes to hospital services - but could not guarantee her party would not close the A&E at King George Hospital.
The senior Labour politician made a speech at Redbridge CVS in Clements Road this afternoon in which she outlined “a choice” for voters on health and social care at next May’s general election.
She said her party would “fully join up the NHS and social care so we get the best results for users and the best value for taxpayers’ money”.
Conservatives have “fragmented services” and “wasted money”, throwing the system “into chaos”, she told an audience of health professionals, party members and journalists.
Asked whether a Labour government would keep the A&E unit at King George Hospital open, she said: “I’m not in a position to make promises that we might not keep,” adding: “What we’re really clear about is that any changes have got to be about what’s best for the public.”
In October 2011, then health secretary Andrew Lansley agreed to the closure of A&E and maternity services at the Goodmayes hospital.
This was despite opposition from Conservative MP for Ilford North Lee Scott, Ilford South Labour MP Mike Gapes and residents around the borough.
Earlier this year, in a move that sparked controversy, current health secretary Jeremy Hunt restated his position that the hospital’s A&E’s closure would not happen until it was clinically safe to do so.
Today Mr Scott criticised the refusal by Ms Kendall, a senior shadow health minister, to offer a commitment to keeping the A&E open.
“Jeremy Hunt is not closing the A&E in the ‘foreseeable future’, and I am going to continue to put pressure on him,” he said.
“If Labour are saying that they cannot guarantee it will stay open, then I think it’s completely unacceptable - that’s not what they were saying at the local election.”
He added: “I would have thought she would give some kind of commitment.”
Mr Gapes, who has been a vocal critic of the closure plans since they were first mooted before the last general election, defended Ms Kendall’s comments.
“We do not know what the position is going to be in 2015,” he said.
“The incoming government is going to have to look at it. Obviously I’m going to be campaigning and I’m sure Wes [Streeting] will, but I do not expect any opposition is going to make commitments like that.”
He added that “the A&E side of things” did not form part of Ms Kendall’s brief.
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