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Whittington A&E facing the axe again?

PUBLISHED: 16:34 29 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:03 07 September 2010

THE WHITTINGTON A&E department has come under threat again with GPs now making the crucial decisions on the Archway hospital s future. Since May s general election, health secretary Andrew Lansley has ordered a halt to NHS North Central London s review, w

THE WHITTINGTON A&E department has come under threat again with GPs now making the crucial decisions on the Archway hospital's future.

Since May's general election, health secretary Andrew Lansley has ordered a halt to NHS North Central London's review, which had set out several scenarios proposing a heavily reduced service at the A&E unit as part of a bid to save £560m across the sector by 2016/17.

But despite being stopped in its tracks the organisation is now holding a "stock take" of the review and passing it on to GPs who must decide whether or not to go ahead with the proposals.

Stephen Conroy, who was leading the review, said it is impossible to say whether or not the A&E department is safe because it won't be NHS NCL making the decisions. He said: "We have stopped the review because that's the secretary of state's policy. We are clear that we won't be making decisions about services in the future - it'll be GPs."

Currently it is not clear which doctors will be taking the decision over the proposals although Mr Conroy says he hopes things will begin to take shape by the autumn.

"At the moment we don't know who the doctors are," he said. "With the Whittington we only got as far as doing a pre-consultation engagement and we had some pretty broad scenarios."

Speaking at a meeting of Camden Keep Our NHS Public on Tuesday, Jacky Davis, who is a member of the London Regional Council for the British Medical Association and also a doctor at the Whittington, criticised the move. She said it essentially passed responsibility for making the tough decisions from politicians to doctors with tight budgets.

"If it's GPs making those decisions it's going to be a completely different ball park," she said. "Nobody knows what happens when they run out of money."

After the meeting she added: "I don't know what's going to happen. I think doctors are going to say it's a case of going back to the drawing board. At this stage they don't know what the budgets are going to be. To go to the GPs in north London at this stage, when there's nothing in place, is completely premature."

Camden LINk patients spokesman Neil Woodnick said: "NHS North Central London does not finish as an organisation until 2013 and as far as I can see it's business as usual. They are reviewing the decisions they have made but are involving the GPs much more now. It won't surprise me if all this goes through at the end of the day - if they can find GPs who say what they want them to."

Members of the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition are due to stage a protest outside the Department of Health in Whitehall today.

Chairwoman Shirley Franklin said: "NHS North Central London say they have no plans to close the Whittington's A&E but that's the same as what they said last time. That's why we are worried they are going to draw on the previous review. We feel our hospitals are at risk again despite Andrew Lansley's promise that the review would be scrapped."

NHS NCL insists it will not tell doctors what to do and that it is up to them if they want to take over the review.

o A protest will begin at 1pm today outside Richmond House in Whitehall where members of DWHC will hand a petition to health secretary Andrew Lansley opposing cuts to key services including the Whittington's A&E.


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