A Labour MP has called on ministers to impose a moratorium on closures of hospital emergency departments until the NHS Commissioning Board’s national review on the subject has been carried out.
Virendra Sharma said the review, announced last month, was being conducted in an “obscene rush” and would not provide the necessary evidence.
The Commons debate led by Ealing Southall MP Mr Sharma follows last week’s announcement that Lewisham Hospital in south-east London would see its A&E unit downgraded because of the financial collapse of a neighbouring NHS trust.
Last month it was announced that NHS Commissioning Board medical director Sir Bruce Keogh would review the way A&E services were run.
Mr Sharma said: “I’m pleased that the government has belatedly announced a national review of A&E services.
“But I’m horrified to note that it is planning to report by March this year.
“This is being done in an obscene rush and cannot be the considered review that we need.”
Mr Sharma is fighting to save Ealing Hospitals A&E unit which faces closure under a review of services in north-west London.
He said: “There should be a moratorium on all A&E closures until a proper, considered and full review of A&E services is carried out, not the current rushed review.”
But Tory David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) hit out at Labour for scaremongering about A&E closures.
He said: “This debate is part of a national campaign to scare people into believing that their NHS will be deconstructed.”
A “disingenuous story” about hospital closures was used by Labour in the Corby by-election campaign to “great effect”.
He added: “This is now the scare story in Lewisham and now, surprise, surprise, is the scare story in the Morecambe area at Lancaster University trust.
“These A&Es are not under threat, they are not closing down and the public will see through this Labour campaign to start a fire and claim to put it out, saving us all.”
Tory Patrick Mercer, MP for Newark, urged the government to be flexible in its approach to A&E services for different communities.
He said: “Could we please take a flexible view of these things, could there be clinical cases assisted and made in places like Newark so that minor injury units can indeed provide other critical services than those that they do at the moment.”
Labour’s Dame Joan Ruddock, MP for Lewisham Deptford, spoke out on the controversial issue of the proposed changes to Lewisham hospital’s services.
She said: “Reconfigurations ought to be on the basis of clinical grounds and patient safety, not so in Lewisham.”
She added: “Lewisham now faces a reconfiguration that is not said to be a reconfiguration.
“It now faces having an A&E that isn’t a proper A&E, a maternity service that no woman giving birth to her first child will be able to go to.
“Will the minister explain to me today how is this improved clinical care, how is this is improved patient choice.
“This is an absolute disgrace, completely unjustified and we will all fight it to the very last.”
Health minister Anna Soubry said lifestyle and society continued to change so the NHS had to change too. Any changes to services had to be “locally led and clinically driven”.
She said the decision to downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital was “very difficult” but was “absolutely right”.
She went on: “As has been alluded to by some, these things are not easy. I want to set the record straight and make it absolutely clear and say that the reconfiguration of local services is essentially a matter for the local NHS, which must in its considerations put patients at the heart of any changes.
“The NHS… has always had to respond to patients’ changing needs and advances medical technology. As lifestyles, society and medicine continue to change, the NHS needs to change too.”