A petition signed by 22,363 residents against plans to close Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments at Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals is being handed to the Department of Health today (Friday, 9 March).
The petition, organised by Ealing and Hammersmith & Fulham Councils, calls on the government to halt the closure of vital services, including A&Es at Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals.
Councillor Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council, said: “In October 2013, Jeremy Hunt told the House of Commons that both Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals would keep their A&Es. But the plans being progressed by the NHS show neither hospital will accept blue-light ambulances. There will be no critical care; no surgery on-site and no specialist consultant-managed A&Es, leaving only urgent care centres to treat cuts and bruises at these hospitals. If the government approves this – we believe that the Secretary of State’s promise will have been broken.”
This petition is the latest challenge to the plans which were announced in July 2012. It is being delivered before the Secretary of State considers the NHS’s business case for the downgrade of Ealing Hospital and new out-of-hospital care in the borough. There has been significant local opposition in the past six years, with thousands of people taking part in marches in both boroughs and tens of thousands of people signing numerous council and community petitions.
Earlier this year an independent survey, commissioned by the councils, showed that the proposed urgent care centres do not meet residents’ definition of an A&E. More than 90% believe that an A&E should be open 24-hours every day of the year, that it should deal with life-threatening injuries and have full resuscitation facilities, that it accepts patients from blue-light ambulances and that it should admit patients to hospital for surgery. And, 80% believe that an A&E should be managed by specialist consultants. The proposals for Ealing and Charing Cross meet none of these criteria.
“To close 500 beds…makes no sense”
Councillor Hitesh Tailor, cabinet member for health and adult services, said: “Our area already has some of the worst performing A&E waiting times in the country. If A&Es at Ealing and Charing Cross close it will put more pressure on the very same services that have been under severe strain this winter despite the heroic efforts of local doctors and nurses.
“Any decision to replace the remaining A&Es in this area with an urgent care centre would be ludicrous given the local population is rising. And to close 500 beds across the region, makes no sense and must be stopped.”
The councils are particularly concerned that local people will be forced to travel further with longer ambulance journey times and longer waits in A&Es, which could make medical outcomes worse. Last year a report by the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust on London’s STPs found that the capital needs 1,700 extra acute beds by 2021 to cope with increased demand, yet in north west London the NHS plan is to cut bed numbers.
Councillor Julian Bell, added: “We are urging Jeremy Hunt to listen carefully to the concerns raised by the tens of thousands of Ealing and Hammersmith & Fulham residents who have signed this petition, to the voices of medical staff and hospital users.
“Please keep your promise to the people of our boroughs and ensure that our hospitals keep their A&Es.”