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Election 2017: Health secretary Jeremy Hunt casts doubt over closure of King George Hospital A&E by 2019

PUBLISHED: 12:29 12 May 2017 | UPDATED: 14:43 12 May 2017

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP talking to Conservative Party Members at the Prince Regent Hotel

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP talking to Conservative Party Members at the Prince Regent Hotel

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The closure of King George Hospital's A&E, which is proposed for 2019, will not happen "in the forseeable future" according to the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP talking to Conservative Party Members at the Prince Regent HotelHealth Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP talking to Conservative Party Members at the Prince Regent Hotel

In 2011, health secretary Mr Hunt announced plans to turn the borough’s only emergency unit into an urgent care centre.

But on a campaign trail visit to support Ilford North Conservative candidate Lee Scott this morning in Woodford Green, Mr Hunt told the Recorder that the future of the A&E unit had not been decided.

He said: “We recognise there’s been an increase in the use of the NHS.

“We are absolutely not going to pursue any decision if it affects neighbouring hospitals.

“I cannot see a change happening in the foreseeable future.”

On Wednesday, the Recorder were told that plans to downgrade to unit an urgent care centre were still going ahead.

A spokeswoman from Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), confirmed that this was still the case.

Jane Milligan, executive lead on the proposals, wrote: “It is our intention to make the changes by 2019 but please be assured nothing will happen until we are fully satisfied all the necessary resources are in place, including the additional capacity at the neighbouring hospitals.”

Labour’s Ilford North candidate Wes Streeting responded: “When Jeremy Hunt says the A&E won’t close for the ‘foreseeable future’ we all know that this is a meaningless statement because the closure decision has been taken and it remains a question of when not if.

“Jeremy Hunt is the only politican who can reverse the closure decision, but he hasn’t and he won’t.”

A dedicated campaign against its closure has seen members of the public, politicians from across the spectrum and community figure unite together.

In March, more than a thousand campaigners marched to Redbridge Town Hall to oppose the closure of the borough’s only emergency unit at the hospital in Barley Lane, Goodmayes.

Two months ago, Matthew Hopkins, the chief executive at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), which came out of special measures in March, hinted to the Recorder that the imminent closure, set for 2019, would not go ahead.

Protesters have been campaigning against the closure, and believed this would begin once King George’s trust, BHRUT, came out of special measures.

However Mr Hopkins made it clear the two events were not linked.

He said: “There are still a lot decisions to be made.”

“The key question is how we are going to meet the real need to expand the A&E department here in Queen’s,” he said.

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