THERE has been anger and disappointment in Bexley at the failure of the Health Secretary Alan Johnson to overturn the plans to downgrade Queen Mary’s Hospital,Sidcup.

Bexley Conservatives, who had mounted opposition to the plans to strip Queen Mary’s of its emergency services, and organised a march in support of the hospital, claimed: “The drastic withdrawal of services wiill inevitably have a dramatic impact on Bexley residents”

Councillor David Hurt who chaired the council’s scrutiny committee which referred the A Picture of Health (APOH) proposals to Mr Johnson, said he was “extremely disappointed”.

He said the decision would mean “a diminution of local health service provision for Bexley residents - the lack of a local A&E department at Queen Mary’s being the most worrying.”

But he accepted there were some crumbs of comfort, such as the retention of the midwife-led birthing unit at Queen Mary’s and the extension of the urgent care centre hours to a 24 hour, seven days a week service.

Chris Streather, chairman of the new South London Healthcare NHS Trust, covering the Sidcup, Farnborough and Woolwich hospitals, said the decision was “a victory for patients and the local population.

“I am delighted we can now just get on with it.”

Queen Mary’s consultant Andrew Bamji said the fact that the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP)had asked for the financial viability of the plans to be reassessed “suggests to me the panel has serious doubts as to whether the projected financial savings will be realised.”

He also warned of potential legal action against APOH if someone died because of an extended ambulance journey.

David Evennett, MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford, has already written to Mr Johnson expressing his "bitter disappointment" at the decision.

He wrote: “I believe that the views and concerns of local people have been disregarded in this respect, and I am still concerned about the provision of emergency services for the people of Bexley.”

Council leader Teresa O’Neill said: “We have lost A&E, but we did get something out of being party to the referral.

"We have got a stand-alone midwifery unit, a 24-hour urgent care centre and an ambulance review.

"I am very disappointed the panel did not listen to all our priorities, but I think it was worthwhile making the referral."

She said she hoped the decision would not be the signal to sell-off of parts of the Sidcup hospital site.

She said the success of Queen Mary’s would now depend on what Bexley Care Trust decides to put on the site.

Cllr O'Neill added: "It is clear the care trust now has to step up to the mark.

"The council will also be doing what it can to make it happen and make Queen Mary's the best it can be."

But MPs Clive Efford from Eltham and John Austin from Erith and Thamesmead, both welcomed the Health Secretary's announcement.

Mr Austin said: "This is not about downgrading any hospital, it is about each hospital in the area providing different but vital services."