A PLUMSTEAD woman whose 76-year-old mum waited 18 hours in Woolwich's casualty department has slammed proposals to close Lewisham's A&E.

When Kathleen Gummer arrived at a packed Queen Elizabeth Hospital at around 6pm she had to wait until 1.50am before finally being taken off a stretcher and given a bed, as staff tried to cope with a norovirus outbreak and the effects of wintry weather.

Daughter Jacky Ware, 56, of Plumstead Common, told News Shopper that she had called a doctor on January 20 when her mother started feeling unwell.

Because of suspected heart failure an ambulance was quickly called and Mrs Gummer was rushed to Woolwich.

Ms Ware said: "The initial assessment was done quickly and the wait for a doctor was a reasonable one.

"But then she was just left on a stretcher because they didn't have any beds in any wards anywhere.

"They didn't even have any pillows for her which was a surprise. The staff did their best they could by folding up blankets for her.

"Eventually, about 1.50am they got her off the stretcher and into a bed. She was in agony."

Ms Ware went on: "By 2am I needed to go home and she was in a bed. But when I phoned the next day at about 11am or 12pm I was told that she was still on A&E. They still hadn't found her a ward. It's just appalling."

Ms Ware said her mother, diagnosed with pneumonia was now well on the way to recovery.

The hospital has denied reports that ambulances were being diverted away from Woolwich at the weekend. But Mrs Gummer's case will raise further concerns about proposals to close Lewisham's A&E, putting more pressure on neighbouring Woolwich which would serve 750,000 people across three boroughs.

Ms Ware said: "I have no complaint with the staff - it's the resources. They can't keep up with the current demand. For someone to sit there and say that it can cope if another A&E closes is just ridiculous. It can't."

A spokesman for the South London Healthcare Trust said: "We have apologised to Mrs Gummer for an unacceptably long wait in A&E last weekend.

"While the vast majority of our patients are treated in A&E within the four hour maximum waiting time period, there are times when patients wait longer due to the availability of beds if there are sudden surges in A&E attendances or if there are particular issues with discharging patients who are medically fit for discharge.

"In the small number of cases when a patient does have to wait in the A&E department before being admitted to a ward, it is normal practice for spare beds to be brought into the A&E patient bays where they are cared for in the same way as if in a ward.

"Last weekend there were unfortunately a number of patients who had to wait for longer than we would have wished and this was in part due to a smaller number of beds being available due to norovirus and a lower than usual number of discharges due to the severe weather conditions.

"We have thanked our staff for the excellent efforts they have made in maintaining our services during these weather conditions."

A campaign group wants to hear from people with similar experiences. Email patientactiongroup@yahoo.com