Clegg defends A and E closures

Nick Clegg has defended the Government's decision to close two Accident and Emergency departments.

Nick Clegg meets Elizabeth Burrows, aged four, at a Halloween party at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London

Nick Clegg has defended the Government's decision to close two Accident and Emergency departments.

The Deputy Prime Minister said: "There are of course always changes in the NHS. That's something that has always happened and will continue to happen."

He admitted there was "always a great controversy when you make changes in the NHS".

Asked what he thought about the Court of Appeal's ruling earlier this week that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt did not have the mandate to make cuts at Lewisham hospital, he said: " What must always guide any decision is what the clinicians judge to be the most appropriate level of service to give patients the reassurance that when they go to hospital they get the best possible care."

Mr Clegg was speaking on a visit with his wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, to Great Ormond Street Hospital's Halloween party.

The pair toured two wards of the hospital, then joined patients, parents and volunteers for the party i n a room adorned with spiders, pumpkins, cupcakes, bats and balloons.

Rosette Ditbhia, from Hackney, east London, and her eight-year-old daughter Monica chatted to Mr Clegg while doing arts and crafts at the party.

Mrs Ditbhia said: "I was surprised that Nick Clegg was here. I didn't know he was coming. He asked me why I was there and I told him that my four-month-old baby was having a leg operation. He told me everything will be ok.

"He talked with my daughter about her school. He said he wanted her to work hard and be someone important in the future. You wouldn't know he is a politician, he is so kind and humble."

Patti Hogan, a volunteer services coordinator at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: "We hold a Halloween party every year for the children. We are expecting about 150 children here today."

Kala Diran, another volunteer at the party, said: "This party is for all the inpatients and outpatients. It is just to give them a break. Some children are not able to come downstairs, so we have had some of the fairy entertainers go round the hospital wards too. The children really enjoy it. For at least a couple of hours they can forget about their situation. The feedback we get is always great. People really do appreciate the party."

Simon Ward, a film grip from Ascot, Berkshire, took his three-year-old daughter Sophie to the Halloween party.

"She loves dancing and arts and crafts," he said. "This all looks great."

Mr Clegg praised the hospital, saying: "What is so wonderful about Great Ormond Street is it has long been known as one of the greatest children's hospitals not only in the United Kingdom but also across the world.

"To meet the volunteers, to meet the staff, to see the dedication to giving first rate care here is a great, great thing. To see them all having fun together - sick children, brothers and sisters and families together on Halloween - is very heart warming."