Hospital consultation not a ‘sham’ health minister tells Redbridge MPs

A GOVERNMENT health minister has backed the ongoing consultation over plans to close King George Hospital’s A&E and maternity services, despite claims they are a “sham”.

The floor of the House of Commons saw passionate exchanges about the future of the hospital in Barley, Goodmayes, as an adjournment debate was held on the subject this afternoon.

Health minister Simon Burns was at the despatch box to answer questions from Ilford South MP Mike Gapes and Ilford North MP Lee Scott.

He told them a meeting on December 15 of the joint committees of PCTs will make a final decision on the proposals, which though revised, still include plans to axe A&E and maternity services at King George while bolstering the 24/7 urgent care services at the hospital.

But he denied claims the ongoing consultation, recommended by an independent reconfiguration panel which looked into the plans earlier this year, was flawed.

Answering claims from Mr Scott that it was worse than a “rigged Afghanistan election”, he said: “If you don’t agree with the decision, you will shout foul, but I don’t think it will be foul.”

He added: “Doctors are still convinced any small increases in travel time [to Queen’s Hospital, Romford] will be more than compensated by having better, safer, quicker care.”

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Mr Burns confirmed Redbridge Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee can look at the plans after a decision is made on December 15 and ask Secretary of State Andrew Lansley to look at them again if they choose.

He also told the house categorically that King George would not close in its entirety, in answer to fears held by some over its overall future.

During the debate, Mr Gapes said: “We are facing a very, very important time.

“We need a decision which is in the interests of the people not of the people who are running the bureaucracy of the NHS.”

A Health for North East London spokesman said the revised recommendations are “being further discussed with GPs and local authorities” ahead of the December 15 meeting.