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Leading health think tank raises serious concerns about NHS plans for hospital services

An independent report published Tuesday 12 September, casts serious doubts about the credibility of NHS proposals.

The report, published by The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust and prepared by leading health experts, says that as many as 1,700 extra acute beds could be needed in London by 2021 to keep up with current demand. Despite this NHS North West London has been pushing ahead with plans to spend £300million to remove acute services from Ealing Hospital which will result in its blue-light A&E being closed and an 80% reduction in beds.

The health charities also say the level of bed occupancy, which is running at 90% in the capital, is too high if hospitals are to be run ‘smoothly and safely’ and that the NHS assumptions about how it will reduce hospital capacity in the region is  ‘not always clear’. The growing shortages of doctors and nurses working in the capital, continues to be a major area of concern.  The report’s authors also claim 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 is ‘highly unlikely to be achievable’ over this period.

Ealing Council leader Julian Bell, said: “This report, prepared by the country’s leading health experts, vindicates everything we have been saying since these ill-conceived plans were first presented. We don’t believe these plans are safe, there isn’t the capacity elsewhere in the system and the speed and scale of change is unrealistic.

“A&E waiting times in north west London are already amongst the worst in the country. Ealing’s population is growing and the pressures on the local NHS are already acute, stripping away vital services and capacity is nonsensical.

“I want to see an immediate halt of the plans in north west London so people can be assured that they and their loved ones will get the care they need in an emergency. I welcome the Mayor of London’s proposal to work with the NHS to provide greater scrutiny over what is proposed to ensure that Londoners feel safe and will get the health services they need.

“The NHS needs to build trust with Londoners and to be clear about what is proposed and listen to residents’ views. I know in Ealing our residents are not been given the whole picture.”

Despite proposed changes at Ealing Hospital, NHS North West London states on its website (healthiernorthwestlondon.nhs.uk/bettercare/hospitals/ae) ‘There are no plans to make any further A&E closures in North West London.’ This was after the closure of Hammersmith and Central Middlesex Hospital A&Es in September 2014.

Councillor Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council, has sent a letter to North West London Collaboration of Clinical Commissioning Groups’ chief officer Clare Parker, to request the statement is revised as it’s not accurate.

Councillor Bell said:  “If these plans are implemented, there will be no blue-light or emergency services provided at Ealing Hospital, so it can’t have an A&E.

“I’d urge Ealing residents to show their opposition to these reckless plans by signing the petition to the government, urging them to think again and save Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals as District General Hospitals.

“The plan to change the hospitals’ A&E to a GP-led urgent care centre rather than consultant-led will be unfamiliar for most people as they will only treat minor injuries.”

Adding to the weight of residents’ opposition is the July A&E performance records which saw more than a quarter of people not seen within the four hour target at London NW Healthcare Trust and a third of patients were not treated within the national target at Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Trust.

Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham Councils are calling for the Shaping a Healthier Future proposals to be halted.

Residents are encouraged to be part of the Save Our Hospitals rally on Saturday 30 September at 1pm at Ealing Common. Ahead of the rally locals are invited to march from Southall Park from 11am or from Acton Park at 11.30am.

To help highlight concerns Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham Councils launched a petition in August which they are urging people to sign to show their opposition to the plans.

The petition is available online at sohpetition.co.uk.

The King’s Fund report on London’s STP was published on Tuesday, 12 September www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/sustainability-and-transformation-plans-london

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