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Nick Clegg Defends Lewisham A&E Plans

Thursday 31st January 2013

Nick Clegg has defended plans which could see the closure of an A&E department at a major hospital in south east London.

Ahead of today's decision on whether Lewisham hospital will lose its emergency department after the nearby South London Healthcare NHS Trust went into administration, John from Lewisham called the Deputy Prime Minister during his weekly phone in on LBC 97.3.

"Will the advice of local GPs and Consultants be considered in the future or are absolutely no successful hospitals safe under this Coalition?" John asked.

The proposals are part of the reorganisation of the South London Healthcare Trust - which has been put into administration.

Labour leader Ed Miliband says the decision should be based on clinical judgments not cost judgments.

Thousands of people took part in a mass march over the weekend in protest at plans to cut local services in order to solve a budget crisis caused by the neighbouring health trust.

But Mr Clegg has told us Labour is to blame.

"Look, the problem as you know, comes back actually to this appalling PFI contract which the previous government signed with one of the neighbouring hospitals which is now losing that trust, I think it's about 150 million in debt," the Deputy Prime Minister explained.

"So the whole kind of health system in that part of London is in a sense, financially running on empty because of a failure to make sure that this PFI deal was good value for local taxpayers and patients. So they're going to have to do something."

"There are no easy choices and I'm not going to try and second guess what Jeremy Hunt is going to do and decide," he added. "I certainly understand why people feel as strongly as they do locally and I know that any decision will also be, of course, based (which is your question, John), on clinical advice about what is right for patients."

Shortly after this week's Call Clegg Health Minister Jeremy Hunt announced the A&E department and maternity services at Lewisham Hospital are to be downgraded despite the protest against it.