A SENIOR health Minister says it is “most unlikely” King George Hospital’s A&E will close in 2019 – despite NHS bosses’ claims it will.

Redbridge MPs Mike Gapes (Ilford South) and Wes Streeting (Ilford North) bagged an adjournment date in Parliament yesterday (July 10) to quiz health Minister Philip Dunne on the emergency department’s uncertain future.

The decision to shut the A&E in Barley Lane was taken by former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley in 2011, who promised it would only be downgraded to an “urgent care centre” when neighbouring facilities at Whipps Cross and Queen’s Hospital were up to scratch.

In January this year a lead for the Government’s North East London Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) said they hoped to have made the changes by 2019, but only if it was safe to so.

To complicate matters further Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Guardian he could not see the A&E closing “in the foreseeable future” when he came to Ilford North as part of the General Election campaign.

During yesterday’s late-night debate Mr Gapes raised concerns about north east London’s £586 million health deficit and 40 per cent cuts to Redbridge Council’s budget damaging social care provision.

He added: “The STP points out the population of north east London will increase by 18 per cent in the next 13 years – the equivalent of a new city.

“Normally that level of increase would require a new hospital.

“But instead the proposal is to downgrade our hospital and take away its accident and emergency department.”

His Labour colleague Mr Streeting said senior NHS staff in the area do not believe the Government’s 2019 closure deadline is “achievable or clinically sound” and both urged Mr Dunne to “take it off the table”.

They argued that with King George’s location next door to Goodmayes Hospital and nowhere for the 400 A&E beds to be replaced at nearby hospitals, ministers should rethink the whole STP.

In response Mr Dunne said: “In all honesty, I think it is most unlikely that it would be completed in less than two years.

“It is conceivable that it would be concluded by the end of 2019, but a two-year process is likely to be required as a minimum.”

He said Mr Gapes’ idea about linking facilities at Goodmayes and King George Hospital’s was a good one, but he could not give any clear answer on when the A&E will actually close.

He said the Government has allocated £1 billion in local authority funding to help ease the social care crisis and the new urgent centre at King George would still be able to deal with the “majority” of current A&E admissions.

But Mr Streeting and Mr Gapes were not convinced, pleading for a more “imaginative” approach that would mean emergency, mental health, and social care services working together to avoid closing the borough’s only A&E.