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CAMPAIGNERS were today protesting at plans to cut £4.5 billion from the NHS in London by 2020 that they fear will result in hospital closures.

Draft “sustainability and transformation plans” have been drawn up for five parts of the capital, with officials warning that “doing nothing” will see hospitals and GP commissioners falling massively into debt due to the increasing cost of caring for an ageing population while battling against NHS staff shortages.

As the Standard revealed in May, the axing of 500 hospital beds is proposed in North-West London to help prevent a £1,299m overspend, heightening longstanding fears for the future of Charing Cross and Ealing hospitals.

In South-East London, the “do nothing” option is forecast to result in a £1,015m overspend. Officials have proposed plans to “reduce pressure on and simplify A&E”.

In North-East London a £500m overspend is predicted. No closures are proposed but health bosses want to reduce the number of hospital attendances.

In South-West London the gap would be £900m – amid concern that none of the area’s hospitals meet new standards for emergency care. Particular problems are reported at St Helier and St George’s hospitals. The funding gap in North-Central London is predicted to hit £876m.

Campaigners, including those fearing for the future of hospitals outside London, were marching from Trafalgar Square to the Department of Health from 12.30pm. It was the first united bid to challenge ministers about the implications of the plans, which were ordered by the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens.

Dr Louise Irvine, a GP who was involved in the campaign to save Lewisham hospital, said: “We don’t think their ideas of how to save £1 billion [in South-East London] are credible. We see them as a hospital closure programme.

“They have not announced anything yet – they are being kept secret – but people are seeing they are almost all about reconfiguration, shutting down district general hospitals. They come up with this fantasy story about community care that is nothing more than blue sky thinking.”

A spokesperson for NHS England said: “The NHS locally is now working together on shared plans to improve mental health, cancer care and GP services for the communities they serve, with hospitals now working in partnership rather than competing against each. The best way forward is for local doctors, hospitals and councils to work together with their local communities.”

  • An edited version of this article appears in today’s Evening Standard.
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