AN MP has expressed his fury at news of the "temporary" closure of the Accident and Emergency and maternity departments at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup.

Old Bexley and Sidcup MP James Brokenshire, who campaigned for a review of proposed closures says he is seeking an urgent meeting with the trust to ask for "clarification of these proposals and how the trust believes other local hospitals will be able to cope with increased patient demand".

Dr Chris Streather, chief executive of the South London Healthcare Trust which runs Queen Mary's called the hospital staff together this morning (September 22) to tell them Sidcup's A&E will close by the end of November and maternity "as soon as safely practical".

He said the closures were being done for clinical safety reasons.

The announcement came as a review of A Picture of Health (APOH) proposals, which would lead to the closure of emergency services at the hospital, is about to get underway.

Ordering the review, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said all the APOH plans would be put on hold until the review was completed.

Mr Brokenshire said: "I am angered and deeply disturbed by this news which risks pre-empting the forthcoming review of local hospital services demanded by the government."

He added: "While I fully recognise the need for clinical services to be provided safely, I am unconvinced that all necessary efforts have been made to retain and maintain services at Queen Mary’s."

Mr Brokenshire warned: "We have been here before with the previous ‘temporary’ closure of overnight A&E services which has turned into a permanent situation.

"At the very least there needs to be a demonstration of the recovery plan intended to be put in place by the trust to restore services as quickly as possible."

In an interview with News Shopper last month, Dr Streather said he accepted the temporary closures may turn out to be permanent, but said he could not allow the units to remain open if patient safety was at risk.

At that time, he claimed staffing problems were so serious he had been forced to ask for a weekly review of the situation and wrote to trust staff then, warning the units could close.

But Mr Brokenshire said: “I am equally dismayed by the way in which this announcement has been made without any proper opportunity to test the assumptions behind such a significant decision. "

He added: "I have also contacted the Department of Health to underline my belief that this action could frustrate the Secretary of State’s stated intention to enable communities and GPs to decide on the services that should be provided at local hospitals."

In a statement, Dr Streather said: "I have been very clear publicly in recent months of our real concerns about the potential risks to patient safety involved in running three emergency and obstetric maternity units as the onset of winter puts additional pressures on our services."

He added: "A clinical safety review carried out by independent senior clinicians commissioned by NHS London across all of our sites and supported by the Trust’s medical and nursing directors, has concluded that there are significant safety risks, particularly in regard to a serious shortage of emergency medicine middle and junior grade doctors, and midwives.

"We can’t take a risk this situation would become unsustainable during the winter months."

And he reminded people the hospital will continue to run a 24-hour urgent care centre which is able to deal with the majority of people's injuries and conditions.

Addressing anxious staff in a meeting this afternoon, Dr Streather told them he felt “a little bit of sorrow” about the announcement.

Dr Streather blamed the APOH review for the trust’s decision.

Dr Streather said if things continued as they were there was a danger of “our services getting worse to a level where patients are exposed to unnecessary risk".

Under the plans the A&E will close by the end of November with maternity to close no more than six weeks after that.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital will also be shaken up, with orthopaedic surgery and general surgery being moved to the Sidcup site. Urology may also be moved over to the Princess Royal.

But Dr Streather told them: “As people know, they’re quite hard-pressed at the moment.”

Trust chairman George Jenkins told the staff: “Please don’t see this as the end of this site.

“it will be more of a centre of excellence in some of the work we do.”

And he told them: “This is a temporary measure.

“We have no power to make this permanent at the moment.”

The pair also revealed problems with vacancies, with 60 to 70 per cent of some roles unfilled and 42 vacancies for qualified midwives.

When asked about the possibility of demolishing the maternity building, Dr Streather said: “If we achieve APOH, then what we do on this site will need to be concentrated in a smaller area.”

The closure plans will go to the trust board meeting being held at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich on September 29, which will be open to the public from 11am.

But Mr Brokenshire said: “While the concerns over clinical safety may be genuine, I simply fail to see how this decision will improve the overall quality of care and access to services for Bexley residents, including my own family.”