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New research published today has bolstered campaigners' claims that downgrading the A&E department at City Hospital in Birmingham will lead to more deaths.

City - the old Dudley Road Hospital - is home to one of 29 emergency facilities across the NHS which is being threatened with cuts or closure, but a study by the Medical Care Research Unit at Sheffield University warns against the plan.

Their figures show that just 5.8% of patients admitted to A&E in an ambulance died if they travelled less than10km; but that the death rate grew to 7.7% for those whose journey was between 11 and 20 km.

Proposals by the Sandwell and West Birmingham Health Trust would leave City with an A&E assessment centre ' but no emergency beds or theatre facilities.

Patients in need of the most serious treatment would thus have to travel 6 miles (more or less 10km) to West Brom ' a distance which the data shows could be deadly.

City Hospital consultant Ken Taylor, who's one of the leading campaigners against the plan, seized on the findings.

He said: "Who the hell has been advising the government that people can go further for A&E? This is a way of cutting costs and nothing else.

"Commonsense tells you that if you are very seriously ill, you need to be treated as soon as possible, with the best possible facilities. But because it's such commonsense, no one has bothered to test it with research before.

"Well now we've got the results -and they tell us what we knew all along. The message is clear ' seriously ill patients need to get to the A&E department at their local hospital and any delay can be fatal."

Conservative leader David Cameron is visiting Sandwell Hospital today to highlight the issue. (See link here)

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