TONY Blair has been accused of being "two-faced" after backing the closure of A&E departments just eight days after telling Bucks Free Press readers that they should fight changes.

Last Monday the Prime Minister told Julia Wassell, Labour leader for Buckinghamshire, that people should get involved with debate on health service changes after hearing about Our Don't Do It, Hewitt campaign to safeguard A&E services at Wycombe Hospital.

Cllr Wassell said: "I told him that A&E was a major issue for people here and he was concerned.

"He said it was important that when people have concerns about Government decisions they pull their finger out.

"He said it was up to us to intervene at every point."

But in a speech to the heads of 100 Primary Care Trusts, Mr Blair said NHS changes including A&E closures were necessary in favour of regional specialised centres.

He said: "I think the issue today really is not: is there a change-free option? - because there isn't.

"Lots of people, for example, who come straight to A&E, would, for a variety of reasons, be better treated elsewhere.

"It makes sense, alongside local provision, to create specialist centres of excellence which have 24-hour consultant cover and access to state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment.

"The best is yet to come with more lives saved, stopping more pain and distress."

Paul Goodman, MP for Wycombe, reacted angrily to Mr Blair's speech.

He said: "Last week, Tony Blair told local people to fight any closure of A&E at Wycombe Hospital every step of the way.

"Only a week later, he's supporting the closure of A&E departments up and down the country - including, presumably, ours.

"On the one hand, he hints to Bucks residents that's he's on our side, and on the other supports closing A&E departments.

"This is two-faced spin on a huge scale."

Around 3,000 people have backed the Don't Do It, Hewitt by returning forms to the Bucks Free Press and our sister papers Midweek and The Star.

The campaign was launched after health officials at the hospital said they could not rule out further service reconfiguration.

Trauma surgery has already moved to Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, and childrens' and maternity services are due to move next year.

Roy Sawyer, 75, from Fair Acres, Prestwood, contacted the Free Press in disbelief after reading Mr Blair's comments. He said: "I am amazed that anyone from the High Wycombe area actually believed any word given by Blair or any of his discredited cohorts regarding the closure of the A&E services at Wycombe Hospital.

"Good luck to the 3,000 genuine people who are prepared to fight to keep our A&E department at our hospital."

But Stuart McFadyen, a Department of Health spokesman, said Mr Blair's comments to Cllr Wassell were not specifically aimed at Wycombe.

He said: "The Prime Minister encouraged local people to get involved in debate and consultation that is ongoing.

"The trust has made it clear that there are absolutely no plans to close Wycombe's A&E.

"All the Prime Minister was saying was that the consultation process is there for that reason. He wasn't giving his support to your campaign."

Cllr Wassell said people in High Wycombe are campaigning to safeguard their A&E because there is still uncertainty about its future. She said: "Everybody in Wycombe is in a state of concern.

"There are 50 campaigns up and down the country and this is disconcerting for NHS staff and residents.

"NHS managers need to put up a consultation or shut up the rumours."