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Gauntlet laid down on hospital demolition plans as health bosses are told to 'think again'

A delegation from Hammersmith & Fulham Council has met with health chiefs to demand that they halt plans to demolish Charing Cross Hospital and replace local A&Es.

New council leader, Cllr Stephen Cowan, criticised ‘the lack of clinical evidence’ behind the immediate plan to close Hammersmith A&E and said that the Board of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust had ‘demonstrated a complete failure to carry out their duties to robustly scrutinise that decision before they signed it off’.

He said: “This raises serious doubts about the capacity of Imperial’s management and board to take on the extra freedoms and responsibilities that their bid to move to a foundation hospital would allow.”

Cllr Cowan announced he has commissioned a review of Imperial’s bid to be a foundation hospital and said he would be announcing its findings in September.

On June 21 the health officials announced that they intend to start the hospitals downgrading process by closing Hammersmith Hospital’s A&E on September 10.

Board minutes show that not one member of the board questioned this decision despite the same board papers claiming that St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington was already at full capacity.

Health officials have started a six-week publicity campaign that will run over the school summer holidays and is intended to inform local residents that they will close Hammersmith Hospital’s A&E.

Cllr Cowan called the decision to mount a publicity campaign over the summer holidays ‘shocking’ and ‘reckless’.

He added: “This is another example of how they are treating the residents whose taxes pay their salaries with absolute contempt.”

The delegation’s hard-hitting messages were delivered at two separate meetings where Cllr Cowan, Cllr Vivienne Lukey, cabinet member for health and adult social care, and Cllr Sharon Holder, head of hospitals and health care unit, were joined by Andy Slaughter MP and met with Dr Tracey Batten, the CEO of Imperial College NHS Trust, Daniel Elkeles, CCG lead strategy officer, Dr Tim Spicer and others health officials.

At the first meeting Daniel Elkeles said that the intention was to demolish Charing Cross Hospital but when questioned about the proposal to replace it with a different health facility just 13% the size of the former hospital Mr Elkeles said: “It could be slightly more, it could be slightly less.”

Health officials told the delegation that by 2020 they want to see:

  • The current Charing Cross Hospital demolished and rebuilt as what will mostly be a GP-led clinic, roughly 13% the size of the former hospital, which the government intends to classify as a new ‘community hospital’.
  • The likely loss of up to 500 acute beds from Charing Cross Hospital.
  • The ending of Charing Cross Hospital A&E’s capacity to take any blue light emergency ambulance patients.

Cllr Cowan said: “They can try and do all of that if they want but they will have one heck of a fight on their hands. Their plan has been thoroughly rejected by the people of Hammersmith and Fulham and others across west London. We will use all the powers and influence at our disposal to block them taking this any further.”

He also described Imperial’s plan to mitigate the closure of Hammersmith A&E by opening an extra 14-bed ward at St Mary’s as ‘wholly inadequate’. He said: “These plans are being put together on the hoof. Only this week managers at nearby Chelsea and Westminster Hospital sent out notices saying that they were ‘full to capacity’ with ‘no beds available’.”

Health officials argue that concentrating emergency services at St Mary’s will improve patient care while saving the local NHS an estimated £1 billion a year. The plan involves increasing investment in community-based healthcare in the hope that it will reduce demand on hospital services.

However, Cllr Cowan said: “There is no evidence that this will work and for it to even stand a chance it would need significant and up-front investment to ensure a safe and effective change over. None of that is forthcoming and all the indicators are that this plan is badly thought through, lacking a strong clinical evidence base and is being driven by finances more than anything else.

“Their recent proposal to have some elective surgery at this new GP-led clinic without the facilities to deal with the inevitable major complications that will arise is one of many hot-potch aspects of this re-organisation.

“The residents of west London deserve better than this. This council is not prepared to sit idly by while NHS services are dismantled. The sooner health bosses realise that the better.”

  • The latest proposals will be discussed at the Health and Adult Social Care and Social Inclusion meeting tomorrow (Tuesday July 22) at Hammersmith Town Hall at 7pm.
  • Hammersmith & Fulham CCG also meets tomorrow (Tuesday July 22) at St Paul’s Church in Queen Caroline Street at 2pm.