London Health Emergency issued the warning after it was announced that the hospital was closing the nine-bed Chapel Ward because of staff shortages.

The ward provides short-term care for patients who are unable to return home immediately after a spell in a frontline hospital.

LHE spokesman Geoff Martin said: "Teddington Memorial Hospital is one of the last few remaining cottage hospitals in London. There really is a danger that if you close nearly a quarter of the hospital's beds it is going to have a major impact.

"It will place extra pressure on the emergency beds at Kingston and West Middlesex Hospitals. The neighbouring hospitals have no spare capacity they can not afford to be picking up these cases."

Mr Martin said the ward closure also flew in the face of a government drive to increase the number of short-stay care beds available at hospitals like Teddington.

But a statement released by the Teddington Memorial Hospital NHS Trust refuted claims that the hospital was under any threat of closure.

Trust chairman Pamela Bryant said: "It is utter nonsense for anyone to suggest that the future of the hospital is not secure or it is under threat of closure. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

The decision to close the ward was taken after a review of staffing and the hospital's day-to-day activities.

A spokesman for the trust said the review revealed that by closing the ward the hospital would be able to meet its staffing levels. The trust also pledged to make the beds available if they were needed to ease the pressure on the emergency wards in Kingston and West Middlesex.