CONSULTANTS working at The Whittington Hospital have banded together to unanimously condemn plans to close its accident and emergency department.

The Whitttington Hospital Support Committee, made up of the most senior specialist doctors, said they were "completely committed" to keeping a high-quality 24-hour emergency department, because it was in the best interests of those living in the NHS north central London region.

In an open letter, committee chairman Dr Ben Timmis FRCR said: "We have no doubt that retaining a full accident and emergency at The Whittington is in the best interests of the people in north central London.

"Eighty-three thousand adults and children a year attend our accident and emergency department at all hours for their health needs, and 15,000 people a year are admitted as emergencies to our hospital. In national comparisons of hospitals across the country, The Whittington Hospital has consistently performed superbly."

In October 2009, the Care Quality Commission, an independent health regulator, found The Whittington, in Magdala Avenue, Archway, to have a good quality of services and excellent financial management.

The following month, the annual Dr Foster Quality Account, which ranks every hospital trust in England, identified The Whittington as one of the safest hospitals in the country, with an overall rating of 21 out of 145 hospitals.

The opinion of the consultants is in direct opposition to several eminent clinicians who pledged support for the changes.

In a letter, revealed at a parliamentary debate last month, the clinicians said the proposals were "the best opportunity for a generation to truly transform the NHS".

Health minister Mike O'Brien said: "The messages in the letter are clear: the NHS must invest in prevention, not just treatment, and concentrate specialist expertise for those who are ill in centres of excellence. People who do not need to be treated in hospital should be treated as close to home as possible; and clinicians should be at the heart of all decision making."

Among the list of signatories was Adrian Newland, professor of haematology at Barts Hospital, professor Dame Donna Kinnair, director of nursing at NHS Southwark and Dr Fionna Moore, medical director of the London Ambulance Service.

Dr Moore was appointed by Healthcare for London in September 2009 to serve as its first trauma director, responsible for leading the implementation of world-class specialist trauma networks across the capital.

Dr Timmis said the consultants also agreed with the aims of Healthcare for London, but added the proposals should be in addition to existing services.

Under the four-year North Central London Strategy Plan, hospitals in Haringey, Enfield, Barnet, Islington and Camden are going to be dramatically reconfigured to make either specialist centres, centres of excellence and 24-hour urgent care centres, in line to Lord Darzi's Future of Healthcare vision.

The overhaul, NHS bosses have said, will mean better health care for patients and would also help avoid a budget deficit of between £640 and £860 million by 2015.

Of the seven scenarios being proposed, four of them involve reducing the opening hours of The Whittington's A&E department — or closing it down completely.

Killing that off would lead to all emergency medical and surgical services being shut down, the doctors have said.

Maternity and paediatric departments are also at risk of being shut down and relocated.

The panel are now considering the seven different "options for change" and will shortlist the best to go to a formal consultation expected as early as October 2010.

A final decision by a joint board of NHS bosses from Barnet, Enfield, Haringey, Islington and Camden, will be made in March 2011.