Health bosses accused of gagging debate on hospitals

Hammersmith & Fulham Council has accused hospital bosses of trying to gag debate about their plans for Charing Cross Hospital.

NHS proposals, published in 2013 (pdf), will see the nine major hospitals in north west London reduced to five. The current much-loved Charing Cross Hospital is to be replaced with an urgent care centre, diagnostics and out-patients only.

The NHS plan includes:

  • Demolishing the current Charing Cross Hospital and selling off most the site
  • Replacing the current Charing Cross Hospital with a series of clinics on a site no more than 13 per cent the size of the current hospital
  • Replacing the current A&E with an urgent care clinic
  • Losing more than 300 and possibly all the acute care beds.

But local health bosses say this isn’t a ‘closure’ and are ploughing on with their plans to re-brand Charing Cross as something they call a ‘local hospital’.

A formal complaint was made to the council in April by Imperial’s chief executive Dr Tracey Batten and Clare Parker, chief officer for the Shaping a Healthier Future plan about the council’s campaign to stop the closure of services at Charing Cross Hospital. See the council’s response here (pdf).

They claim that Charing Cross isn’t ‘closing’ because what will be left behind will still be a ‘local hospital’. But council Leader, Cllr Stephen Cowan, says they are stretching the definition of the word to the point where it misleads people. 

“It’s like demolishing someone’s house only to tell them they have in fact not lost their house – because they’ll be given a new garden shed which will be called their ‘local house’,” said Cllr Stephen Cowan.

“Local NHS managers have a track record on this kind of misuse of language,” he added. “They employed costly spin-doctors M&C Saatchi to help them close the A&E departments at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex hospitals in 2014 which resulted in the closures being re-branded as a ‘change’ because, Saatchis advised, that would be more palatable to local people.

“The facts are perfectly clear to us – North West London NHS published plans in 2013 to axe services at Charing Cross.

“Their letter of complaint reiterates that it’s still their intention to implement these plans. H&F Council has opposed these plans, and is proud to work with dedicated local residents to fight them.

“Recently published figures show growing waiting times and a spike in admissions at Charing Cross. Instead of trying to shut down debate, local health bosses should be focusing on helping their hard-pressed staff deal with these huge challenges.”

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