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Love your A&E? Act now to Save Our Hospitals

Thousands of people across Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham have voiced their objection to the NHS proposals to spend £300million to axe essential services at Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals. You can still help the Save Our Hospitals campaign by signing a petition – and going along to a public meeting.

The proposals would see the axing of 500 beds in north-west London, including an 80% reduction at Ealing Hospital, and the downgrading of both Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals from district general hospitals to the status of ‘local hospital’. Both hospitals would see their A&Es closed and replaced by urgent care centres with no ‘blue-light’ emergency ambulance services. The remaining urgent care centres would be led by GPs, not consultants.  The sites would not provide surgery, critical care or acute beds. They would also not have a maternity unit or a children’s ward – which have already been closed at Ealing Hospital.

Ealing Council has opposed the NHS’s ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ programme of hospital reconfiguration since it was first announced in June 2012.  Last summer, Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham councils launched a joint petition to halt the partial closure of Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals. Residents can sign the petition online at sohpetition.co.uk

Once the petition closes, the leaders of the two councils will then be joined by local campaigners when they take the petition to NHS decision makers, demanding they stop and think again about the plans to close local hospital services, including A&Es.

You can also join a public meeting on Thursday, 15 February between 7.30 – 9pm,  at The Dominion Centre, 112 The Green, Southall, Middlesex UB2 4BQ.

NHS criteria

In 2013 the NHS laid out four tests of service reconfiguration which included:

  • Strong public and patient engagement
  • Consistency with current and prospective need for patient choice
  • Clear, clinical evidence base
  • Support for proposals from commissioners.

In addition to these criteria, last year the NHS decided that hospital bed closures proposed in major service reconfigurations would need to meet a ‘patient care test’ to ensure that proposals would not jeopardise care. To meet the patient care test NHS organisations will have to demonstrate that significant hospital bed closures, subject to public consultation, can meet one of three conditions before NHS England will allow the plans to proceed.

These include:

  • Demonstrating that sufficient alternative provision, such as increased GP or community services, is being put in place alongside or ahead of bed closures, and that the new staff will be there to deliver it
  • Showing that specific new treatments or therapies will reduce specific categories of admissions; and/or
  • Where a hospital has been using beds less efficiently than the national average, that it has a credible plan to improve performance without affecting patient care.

Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham councils have disputed that the proposals meet these tests and commissioned an independent survey last summer which canvassed views on health and social care services.

The survey, led by independent market researcher BMG Research, asked 1,514 residents about NHS North West London’s Shaping a Healthier Future plan and found widespread opposition to the planned cuts to hospital services.

The results highlighted overpowering evidence that the NHS’s plans lacked the support of local people. It found that:

  • 90% disagreed with plans to close A&E departments at Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals
  • 90% disagreed with plans to cut 500 hospital beds across the north-west London region
  • 94% believed one of the essential features of an A&E should be to treat major injuries or conditions
  • 85% were against the downgrade of hospitals’ from major to local status
  • 92% agreed blue light ambulances is an essential feature of A&E units
  • 83% were extremely/very concerned about the longer travel times to access A&Es and other hospital services
  • 82% have not at all/not much been involved in the decision to make the changes to healthcare services in north-west London.
Independent report

Meanwhile, an independent report published in September by The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust, and prepared by leading health experts, found that as many as 1,700 extra acute beds could be needed in London by 2021 to keep up with current demand. The report’s authors also claimed it would require ‘a heroic effort by all parts of the health and care system’ to reduce the numbers of people going into hospital by 2021. In their view what is proposed by the NHS is ‘highly unlikely’ to be able to achieve this over this period.

A&E wait times reach historic high

As opposition to the plans grew last year, emergency admissions reached a historic monthly high in December 2017, with A&E waiting times for the month being the worst ever recorded.

London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Ealing Hospital, failed to hit its targets for A&Es in December. Just over 82% of patients who went to A&E were treated or admitted within the target time of four hours, below the England average of 85% with the current goal standing at 95%.

Council leader Julian Bell said: “Accident and emergency departments have already closed at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex and we warned at the time we would see extended lengthy waiting times and risk peoples’ lives. And now north-west London has some of the worst waiting times in the country.

“As A&Es struggle to cope with the current winter crisis, it is impossible to believe that cutting almost half of the emergency units in our area is safe and will actually enhance our residents’ health.

“We have huge respect for NHS staff and the care they provide. We all want to see improved out-of-hospital and preventative care. However, these plans will have a devastating impact for our residents.

“If these plans go ahead people will have to travel further to get to A&Es, which will be straining under increasing demand with a lack of capacity elsewhere in the system. The speed and scale of change in the proposals is unrealistic and driven by finance rather than patient care or choice.

“We already know from the NHS’s own evidence that these proposals will unfairly impact on our most vulnerable residents and an independent survey shows 90% of residents don’t agree with the plans.

“We want to see an immediate halt of the plans so people can be assured that they and their loved ones will get the care they need in an emergency.”

Show your support for the fight to save our local hospitals: Petition and public meeting

Sign the petition  online at sohpetition.co.uk and join a public meeting on Thursday, 15 February between 7.30 – 9pm,  at The Dominion Centre, 112 The Green, Southall, Middlesex UB2 4BQ.

Future of hospital services, inforgraphic

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