Closing A&E at 24 hospitals ‘will hit the rest,’ warns London Assembly

Closing emergency departments at 24 hospitals across London would have a “devastating impact” on remaining A&E facilities including the huge Royal London and the Newham General.

The number of patients using the three A&E units in east London run by the Barts & The London NHS Trust is likely to go up by as much as 41 per cent if the closures went ahead, according to research by the GLA.

The closures will stretch resources at all remaining A&E units, London Assembly budget chairman John Biggs warns.

“There is growing concern among health professionals that they’ll find it difficult maintaining the quality of care if these closures go through,” he said. “Patients will need to travel to hospitals outside their areas which will have an unprecedented impact on accident and emergency care in east London.

“We face being caught in a pincer of fewer A&Es and a shrunken ambulance service.”

The numbers of people living in Newham General’s catchment area will rise by 14 per cent and in the Royal London’s catchment area by five per cent, he points out. But it will increase at Whipps Cross by nearly a-quarter.

Newham General already handles an average of 328 accidents and emergencies every day, totalling more than 120,000 in 12 months. A bigger catchment area could add another 15,000 a year without expanding medical resources to cope with it, researchers believe.

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The Royal London handles 196,000 casualties a year, which would add another 8,000.

Whipps Cross A&E treated nearly 103,000 in 2012, which could see another 25,000 on top.

The proposed shake-up of A&E coverage across London comes when the Ambulance service is to lose �53 million by 2015—a cut of almost a fifth. This will lead to 890 job losses including 560 frontline emergency staff, it is estimated.

NHS London is already having to make savings of around �1bn and is committed to further �600m in the coming financial year from April.

But the effects on east London are not as severe as at hospitals elsewhere. The number of patients could more than double at St Mary’s A&E in Paddington, increase by 85 per cent at Chelsea & Westminster, 41 per cent at Queen’s in Romford and 32 per cent in Queen Elizabeth’s in Woolwich.