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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 November 2011

Lansley closes another hospital A&E department

Simon Carter

Government health minister, Andrew Lansley, has decided to press ahead with the closure of the A&E department and maternity services at the King George Hospital in Goodmayes, east London. These services will be transferred to Queen's Hospital, several miles away in Romford.

It follows the recent decision by Lansley to approve the closure of the Chase Farm hospital A&E in Enfield, north London.

The King George closures will be a disaster for health care provision across four London boroughs and parts of Essex. Roughly one million people will only have two hospitals which will provide critical care facilities.

The health authorities have attempted to reassure the public that a 24-hour 'urgent care' facility will be installed on the King George Hospital site. However, everyone knows that a 'polyclinic' cannot serve as a substitute for an emergency department.

Even before the government's closure decision the King George A&E was already being run down, with no admissions of children. However, on a number of occasions, patients taken by ambulance to the A&E at Queen's Hospital have been referred back to King George because critical care facilities at Queen's are overstretched.

Moreover, a recent report by the Care Quality Commission has criticised the standards of patient care at Queen's Hospital, due to poor management and its over use of temporary staff.

In reality, the closure decision is a cynical cost cutting measure dressed up as a clinical reorganisation.

It's common knowledge that the cost of servicing the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract, through which Queen's Hospital was built, has left Barking, Havering and Redbridge health trust deep in debt - one of 22 PFI schemes, nationally, that have become "unaffordable".

The local Tory and Labour MPs in Ilford and the Tory-Lib Dem run Redbridge council are opposed to closure - not because they oppose the market-oriented health policies of the previous Labour and present Tory-Lib Dem governments - but because of political 'nimbyism', ie don't close the A&E department in our backyard.

The Socialist Party has for the last four years been campaigning against closure (the closure of the A&E has been threatened twice before under the previous Labour government).

As part of the campaign the Socialist Party has demanded an end to privatisation policies such as PFI schemes which have wrecked the NHS, and instead called for a publicly owned, fully funded and democratically run health service.

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