Hunt downgrades Lewisham A&E service
Jeremy Hunt has said that Lewisham Hospital should retain a smaller A&E department.
The Health Secretary told the Commons that while he understood the "very real concerns" people had about the closure of the department, it was necessary to take the action because of the financial problems at South London Healthcare NHS Trust.
But Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham accused Mr Hunt of "riding roughshod over the people of Lewisham".
He added: "The Secretary of State has crossed a line and set a dangerous precedent."
Earlier today, Ed Miliband urged the Government not to close the department. The Labour leader told ITV’s Daybreak there was "real suspicion and real fear" that the closure was being driven by the “wrong priorities”.
Mr Hunt told MPs that previous attempts to solve the financial problems at South London Healthcare NHS Trust had failed and it would be dissolved by October 2013, with each of its hospitals taken over by a neighbouring hospital trust.
Lewisham Hospital will will continue to have 24/7 senior medical emergency cover, allowing it to remain open as a working A&E department treating up to 75% of the patients who currently use it, he said.
Speaking on Sky News after his announcement in the Commons, Mr Hunt insisted that his decision would be good news for many local people:
"The recommendation that was on the table in front of me was actually to close the A&E, and what I said was we’re going to keep the A& E open for about three quarters of the cases that people currently go there for. And I think today’s decision will be a big relief for the people of Lewisham because they will keep their A&E."
Elsewhere next Wednesday will see the release of a report into the hundreds of unnecessary deaths at Mid-Staffordshire hospital. The Guardian reports the chairman of the inquiry, Robert Francis QC, will call for sweeping reforms to how hospitals are monitored, including more regular and far-reaching inspections.
Alongside these developments comes as a report from the King's Fund forecasts that health and social care will account for half of all government spending by 2060.