A Labour MP has accused Conservatives in Redbridge of misleading the public over the future of the accident and emergency department at King George Hospital prior to last month’s local election.
Mike Gapes, who represents Ilford South, challenged health secretary Jeremy Hunt in the Commons over a leaflet distributed by Tory activists days before voting.
The leaflet, issued by Alborough ward candidates Ruth Clark, Vanessa Cole and Thane Thaneswaran, included the line: “King George Hospital is not closing, King George A&E is not closing.”
The A&E department was scheduled to shut in August next year as part of a reconfiguration of services.
This deadline has now been scrapped as the Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospitals Trust attempts to ensure A&E at Queen’s Hospital can cope with predicted demand.
Gapes believes the leaflet suggested the Tories were responsible for the decision, when it was a policy decision made by the trust.
Challenging the health secretary in the Commons this week, Gapes said: "I will continue to pursue this issue until I get to bottom of the complicity of someone in the department in issuing the leaflets that were designed to mislead the public in the few days before the election.
"The reason the A&E department has not been closed is because it cannot cope with the existing pressures, and it would not be safe to close it."
But the health secretary claimed he was simply repeating information already publicly available.
He said: “What I said was completely in order because I was simply restating information publicly available on the trust’s website.”
Mr Gapes has asked officials to investigate whether the leaflet broke pre-election rules and is yet to have received a response.
Yesterday, Paul Canal, leader of Redbridge Conservatives, responded to the accusations.
He said: “It was Ilford North’s Conservative MP Lee Scott that originally campaigned to overturn Labour’s closure plan, first mooted by the Labour Health Secretary in 2006.
“It was Lee Scott MP again who presented the petition to Parliament urging it stayed open. Saving King George is, was and will be a Tory Campaign.
“Any claim to the contrary is not just disinformation, it’s a pack of lies.
“Labour lied, our leaflet put the record straight. I am proud of our Aldborough candidates for standing up to the Labour propaganda campaign and telling the truth.”
Labour took majority control of Redbridge council for the first time.