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Facts 'do not back hospital closure plans'

THE Tomlinson report, which recommended the closure or merger of several London hospitals because the capital has too many beds, is flawed and not backed up by the facts, a leading doctor has claimed.

A new analysis of hospital bed requirements in London shows that admission rates for acute and geriatric services are comparable to the national average, and the overall admission rate is only 5 per cent higher than in England as a whole.

Brian Jarman, Professor of General Practice at St Mary's Hospital, London, who carried out the analysis, says there are no grounds for reducing beds in London at a faster rate than elsewhere in the country.

The Tomlinson report published in October last year recommended the closure or merger of 15 London hospitals. But in today's issue of the British Medical Journal, Professor Jarman says Tomlinson looked only at acute services in inner London, not at all services - acute, geriatric, maternity, and psychiatric - for all of London.

With these factors, 'it is clear that neither hospital use by London residents, nor the availability of hospital beds, nor considerations of relative efficiency, provide a case for a reduction of total bed capacity in London', he says.

London's 'relatively poorer social and primary health care circumstances, longer hospital waiting lists, poorer provision of residential homes and evidence from the Emergency Bed Service of increasing pressure on beds' must be taken into account, he argues. There should be a 'realignment' of services from inner to outer London rather than wholesale closure of beds.