Councillors quiz health bosses over accident and emergency closure plans
Thursday April 19, 2012
Health bosses confirmed (Tuesday, April 17) that a straight choice will be made between the closure of Charing Cross and Chelsea and Westminster A&E.
Councillors on Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council’s Housing, Health And Adult Social Care Select Committee quizzed North West London NHS (NWL NHS) on an impending consultation on the future of local health services.
They said that one of the A&E units will close while confirming that Hammersmith Hospital is set to become a 'specialist' unit without A&E designation.
Out of the current nine major hospitals that cover the area, which includes H&F, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Hillingdon, Harrow, Ealing and Brent, only five will continue with A&E units in a bid to save the local health service £1.8billion.
Dr Mark Spencer, NWL NHS Medical Director, claimed that the changes would consolidate medical expertise and services on major sites, leading to an improved service but that was seriously challenged by councillors.
Under the proposals that will go before the public shortly, the hospitals that do not retain A&Es will either be classed as ‘local hospitals’ with reduced services or, in the case of Hammersmith, likely to be given ‘specialist’ status.
A financial analysis is now being carried out which will determine whether Charing Cross or Chelsea and Westminster A&E is recommended for closure. They also said that if Charing Cross A&E is closed, it is likely that at least part of the site would be sold off. Only Northwick Park and Hillingdon are certain to retain ‘major hospital’ status because of their geographical locations.
Cllr Joe Carlebach, H&F Cabinet Member for Community Care, said that there is a real danger that that both Hammersmith Hospital and Charing Cross would lose the international research expertise for which they are renowned.
“With all due respect to Hillingdon and Northwick, they are unlikely to attract the world-class medical expertise that both our hospitals boast,” he said.
He also stated that NWL NHS had not factored in local traffic data in estimating longer ambulance journey times. H&F has the second most congested roads in London. Cllr Carlebach also raised the issue of how disabled people would get access to hospital services given that H&F Blue Badges are not accepted in neighbouring boroughs.
Councillors from both sides questioned whether it was really possible to save £1.8billion and improve health services at the same time.
Dr Spencer told councillors that they did not have enough surgeons to maintain the necessary round-the-clock expertise at nine major hospital sites and said that a major focus of work is improving out of hospital care to stop people being admitted in the first place. This will see the imminent launch of a ‘111’ number to signpost non-emergency care.
Councillors told NWL NHS that they wanted much more detail on what ‘the impact of the cuts’ will have on local residents. The issue will come back to the Select Committee in the coming months.
H&F Council Leader Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh has long highlighted what he calls the ‘systematic downgrading’ of Charing Cross over the years. Recently he said that removing A&E units from H&F makes ‘no sense’ when the borough has three nationally significant regeneration areas capable of creating 23,000 new homes and bringing 62,000 jobs.
Total A&E attendances in 2006/7 were 69,325 for Charing Cross and 30,795 for Hammersmith.
What do you think? Let us know below.