Nearly 23 million people in England - more than 40% of the population - could be affected by proposed cuts to A&E departments the British Medical Association warned, adding that the changes were being rushed through without the evidence they will work.
Under the so-called "sustainability and transformation programme" (STP), England has been divided into 44 areas and each asked to come up with its own proposals. 150 new jobs had been created to run them, at a cost of £8.5m a year. Another £1m was being spent on agency staff and consultants, the BMA said. The STP process was launched at the start of 2016 with a view to identifying some of the £22bn of savings that are needed by 2020.
After analysing local plans, the BMA found:
18 of them, covering a population of 22.9 million, involved the closing or downgrading of an A&E department
14 of them, responsible for 17.6 million patients, propose closing or merging a hospital
13 of them, covering a population of 14.7 million, have put forward closing hospital beds
As the STP areas cover quite wider geographies with several hospitals, a cut may not mean everyone sees their nearest hospital affected.
It could, for example, have an impact on the hospital in the next county or town. But the BMA argues everyone will be affected as a closure in one part of the area means a knock-on for other sites in the patch.