Hunt's verdict on Lewisham A&E: Liveblog

Jeremy Hunt is due to address Parliament in a few minutes, announcing his decision regarding the fate of Lewisham Hospital and the South London Healthcare Trust. We'll report the result as soon as it's in.

Brockley Councillor Darren Johnson tweeted this morning:

Jeremy Hunt's letter to Council talks about "difficult decisions". Politician's never use that phrase unless something bad is due to happen.

11:34 - Hunt's statement begins...

11:35 - Uh oh, he's reminding us that health care costs money.

11:35 - He says the SLHT has the worst financial problems of any in the country.

11:36 - He's thanking Kershaw and says he supports his analysis.

11:38 - So far he's accepted all the recommendations other than the reconfiguration that would effect Lewisham

11:39 - He's talking about the public campaign - says he respects their feelings, but that Lewisham needs the other hospitals to work well too

11:41 - Says there has been sufficient clinical input in the recommendations and that no one will be put at increased risk of Lewisham A&E closure.

11:42 - He reckons (and this is patent bollocks) that the extra journey time as a result of closures will only be another minute, on average.

11:45 - It looks like A&E will stay in reduced form. The rest of the recommendations to be adopted.

11:48 - It's not clear yet what a 'smaller A&E' actually means. The hospital was always due to keep some emergency care facilities.

11:50 - The Guardian reports that "Up to three quarters of those curently attending Lewisham A&E could attend the new service at the hospital, he says. Patients with more serious conditions could be taken to other hospitals. This will require careful planning. The NHS medical director believes that, with these caveats, care could improve. The new system could save up to 100 lives a year, he says."

11:52 - The Twitterspehere is still trying to grapple with what this all means. It looks as though all but the most serious A&E cases will be able to get admitted at Lewisham. That could make sense, since those cases will be handled by ambulances.

11:55 - Here's the Department of Health statement:

With regard to the proposed service changes within the new merged Lewisham-Greenwich provider, the Secretary of State asked Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of the NHS, to consider if they would improve patient care.

On the basis of Sir Bruce’s advice, the Secretary of State has accepted the recommendation to centralise very specialist emergency care at four sites in South East London because this will significantly improve the quality of care and save the lives of up to 100 patients a year.

The Secretary of State understood the financial rationale for downgrading Lewisham A&E, but in the interests of local patients has imposed some additional clinical safeguards proposed by Sir Bruce. Lewisham Hospital will retain its ability to admit patients with less serious conditions, and will continue to have 24/7 senior medical emergency cover, allowing it to remain open as a working A&E department treating up to 75% of the patients who currently use it.

Patients with much more serious conditions or higher risk pregnancies will be taken to Kings, Queen Elizabeth, Bromley or St Thomas’ because they are more likely to have a better result. To get to this higher standard of care, patients across South East London will only spend on average 2 more minutes in an ambulance to access specialist emergency services and on average 2-3 minutes in a private car or public transport to access consultant led maternity services.

With these additional safeguards in place, the Secretary of State has agreed that the Trust Special Administrator should proceed to implementation, with South London Healthcare NHS Trust expected to be dissolved between June and October 2013.

12:02 - Hunt says patients with heart attacks and strokes already go elsewhere for more specialist care and argues the principle is no different.

12:05 - Heidi Alexander says she remains concerned about maternity services. Hunt says there are sound medical reasons for women with high-risk pregnancies to travel a little further.

12:06 - Simon Hughes says he doesn't understand why maternity can't stay if there's still to be an A&E department.

12:12 - The details will be picked apart in the coming days. It is not clear at this stage how much this is simply a rebranding of the original plans or whether the A&E will continue to be a useful asset to the people of Lewisham. What is certain is that - as the BBC reports - Lewisham A&E and maternity services have been downgraded due to the mismanagement of other hospitals in the area.