A long-serving Fulham GP has backed Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s calls to save the A&E unit at Charing Cross Hospital.
Dr Mike Evans was one of many local residents and health professional who contacted the council this week to share concerns with the NHS plans. He said: “I have been a GP in Fulham from 1987 to 2015 and have a pretty good knowledge of what is needed in terms of local medical services. The [planned] downgrade of Charing Cross and the rebuild of a token small medical service to try and keep people happy is nothing short of a dangerous disgrace.
“I have known so many instances of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital being totally unable to cope with emergencies and in admitting patients. So to lop off a large hospital like Charing Cross is madness. I’m disgusted.”
This was echoed by Geoffrey Castle, who wrote: “Whoever thinks that closing Charing Cross hospital A&E is a good idea must be totally bonkers! The cost of building a new ‘fit for purpose’ hospital facility to replace the current one would greatly outweigh any short term financial benefit gained by selling off the land.”
The council received the comments after publicising the grilling of health bosses at the final public hearing of the North West London Healthcare Commission – an independent coalition of Harrow, Brent, Hammersmith & Fulham, Ealing and Hounslow councils examining the NHS’s controversial Shaping a Healthier Future programme.
These plans would replace Charing Cross’ A&E with an urgent care clinic and dramatically reduce other services at the hospital, with much of the existing site sold off. The plans have already seen the closure of the A&E at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex hospitals last year despite protests by the council and residents. Since then, remaining local hospitals have regularly missed targets for waiting times.
Another comment came from Louis Joshua Manson, who recounted a tale of his 90-year-old friend needing treatment for a gash on her leg. After his friend was told they were facing a three-hour wait at Chelsea & Westminster, he wrote: “Closing Charing Cross’s A&E will make the situation at C&W even worse and should be rigorously opposed.”
And Ron Williams wrote: “I had to go to St Mary’s Hospital [recently] – the place is old dirty and every department is all over the place. You have to go miles round if you are disabled because of stairs everywhere. This hospital is not a touch on Charing Cross Hospital and the move is down-right ridiculous.”
Meanwhile, Charing Cross Hospital employee Valerie Falzon shared her experience as a theatre nurse by writing: “We are always busy, overworked and understaffed.”
One of the council’s main concerns about the NHS plans to centralise services in St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington is that hospital bosses have not factored in the expected boom in population in Hammersmith & Fulham. In Old Oak alone, the population is expected to swell by 70,000 new residents due to development plans on the northern edge of the borough.
Residents share these concerns, with Prue Angus writing: “Please do not close Charing Cross Hospital. St Mary's cannot cope with the number of patients now. It will be a nightmare with the influx of many more people in the future.” While Maggie Hodd added: “Building hundreds, if not thousands, of new homes plus closing A&E units at hospitals equals disaster.”
And worried about whether St Mary’s could cope with the increase in patient numbers, Sally James said: “It is common knowledge that the A&E performance at Charing Cross in the past has been infinitely superior to that of St Mary's in Paddington. It is ludicrous to make any structural changes to this service. No one in the area wants change - we thoroughly object to it.”
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Charing Cross Hospital, says that it is planning a £150million redevelopment of the site, with a ‘wide range of specialist, planned care and an emergency centre’. However, they admit that the number of in-patient beds will drop from 360 to just 24, while the number of day-case beds will rise from 41 to 86.
The North West London Healthcare Commission’s final report is expected to be published this summer.
To watch all of the Commission’s public hearings, visit the council's YouTube channel.