THE health secretary visited Chase Farm Hospital this morning to stress his commitment to halting top-down cuts to services.

Andrew Lansley had a tour of the hospital, in The Ridgeway, before announcing he was scrapping Labour's plans to cut services until a GP-led consultation was complete.

The plans, designed to save £5 billion a year by 2016, would have seen the closure of Chase Farm's 24-hour A&E department by 2014 and its consultant-led maternity and children's services by 2011.

Mr Lansley pledged to halt the "top-down process that forces closure" in favour of local consultation with GPs and the public.

But he refused to guarantee the A&E department would be saved or say how long the moratorium on cuts would last.

He said: "Here at Chase Farm we are not going to have a top-down bureaucratic process.

"We will talk to the local authority and representatives of the public and GPs locally, so that any changes ensure services are maintained."

He added: "I'm calling a halt to what NHS London was doing, not creating a new timetable.

"I can't rule out change, I can't rule out A&E closures. But we will stop forced closures.

"We will take away all decisions not clinically based, which don't conform to patients' needs."

The NHS London proposals, designed by former Labour health minister Lord Darzi over three years, centred on the creation of "polysystems" and were projected to save £5 billion a year by 2016.

They aimed to create a primary-care led NHS in London with fewer larger hospitals.

Mr Lansley added: "Ara Darzi did a lot of good and focused on quality of services.

"But I don't think he believed the best thing would be 100 polyclinics and the shutting down of emergency departments."

Enfield North Conservative MP Nick de Bois said the responsibility now lay with GPs, residents and Enfield Council to deliver healthcare needs in the borough.

He added, "I'm delighted with today's announcement, it's great news for Chase Farm."

Chase Farm chief executive Averil Dongworth admitted it was "early days" to decide if the new plans would benefit the hospital.

She said: "Obviously we need to take the message on board and consider its implications.

"We will talk to GPs and our colleagues in Barnet, Enfield and Haringey to absorb it and what it means for us in terms of planning."

She added: "What is different about Mr Lansley's plans is that GPs will play a different role with the primary care trusts.

"They will drive the plans and have more control."