Edward Davey has denied suggestions the coalition government had betrayed Kingston Hospital by backing huge job cuts.

The hospital's plans to cut 486 posts over five years prompted accusations from health campaigners that David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith had joined a list of shamed MPs who campaigned to save services now being savagely cut.

But Mr Davey, who started a Save Kingston Hospital campaign before the election, said the cuts were a five year strategy, preferable to losing maternity and accident and emergency units, as threatened in the previous government's South West London Review.

He said: "This will be a real challenge and it is critical the quality of care for patients is not compromised.

"I have met the chief executive and chairman to discuss this already and will be following that up.

"The threat to Kingston Hospital's viability will come if efficiency savings can't be met.

"I'm told that some of the staff reductions will come through the use of technology from kiosks for outpatients to electronic prescribing, both of which can actually improve the quality of care.

"I'm also told that the sharing of back office functions will also be merged, for example contracting out finance functions and merging pathology labs."

He said the cuts were different to those he campaigned against before the general election.

He said: "When the future of accident and emergency and maternity were in question the rationale for that was the desire to deliver savings by closing services.

"The rationale for a five year programme of efficiency in Kingston and other hospital trusts is to make savings to keep services open whilst also improving quality.

"No one says this will be easy and I will be asking to see evidence of the quality impact assessments to reassure myself that this five year plan can work."

He said the cuts confirmed yesterday were totally different to the cuts threatened under the shelved South West London Review, which he campaigned against before his re-election and elevation to a ministerial post.

He said: "I'm not going to pretend this isn't a challenge, these plans caused me to ask detailed questions, but I actually have real confidence in the management of Kingston Hospital.

"It's a very strategic, well thought through approach. It's not some sort of knee jerk to some short term pressures.

"A five year strategy is exactly what the hospital needs to do rather than the quite shocking proposals under the last government.

"We were protesting about the closure of A&E and maternity which was threatened.

"They're not closing."