The battle to save hospital wards marches on

�The battle to save hospital departments from closure took to the streets last week as MPs, councillors and religious leaders led a protest march and rally.

There are fears controversial proposals to axe A&E and maternity wards at King George Hospital in Goodmayes will put intolerable strain on nearby units, including Queen’s Hospital in Rom Valley Way, Romford.

Protestors – many wearing T-shirts emblazoned with slogans – gathered outside Queen’s on Friday, before moving on to Redbridge Town Hall, Ilford, for a rally and speeches.

There were about 250 supporters at the peak of the protest.

Speeches came from MPs, including Conservative Romford member Andrew Rosindell, Conservative cabinet minster and Woodford Green MP Iain Duncan-Smith, as well as from leaders representating some of the main religions, including Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh.

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Mr Rosindell said: “The service at Queen’s will only get worse, people will suffer unnecessarily and we expect, in a small number of cases, people will die who need not have.”

However, Health for North East London (Health4Nel) – the body responsible for the overhaul – promised bulked up wards would lead to better healthcare in the region.

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Havering councillor Denis O’Flynn (Lab, Heaton) said: “There is a growing birth rate in the areas yet the health services are being cut. This does not make any sense to anybody.

“There is a real fear that if King George loses some of its services then Queen’s will be overloaded and people will suffer.”

He said of the protest: “This was a true cross-party rally – there was no political ideology but a genuine interest in protecting the welfare of all.”

Havering Council recently wrote to the government to formally object to the closures and MPs and councillors gathered at Downing Street on Thursday last week to offer their objections directly to Prime Minister David Cameron.

The independent reconfiguration panel, a health watchdog, is currently undertaking a review of the plans on behalf of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. He will make a decision on the panel’s findings at a later date.

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