Thursday, 31 July 2014

VIDEO - Orwellian hospital closure tactics

Orwellian hospital closure tactics

Tuesday July 29, 2014

Health bosses have been accused of deploying ‘Orwellian’-tactics by misleading patients in a £400,000 publicity campaign which claims that A&E units are ‘changing’ when in fact they are closing.
Public relations specialist, M&C Saatchi, has been hired by NHS bosses in North West London to provide advice and support for the campaign which starts this week and runs over the school summer holidays giving residents just six weeks’ notice of A&E closures at Hammersmith Hospital and Central Middlesex on September 10. They will be replaced with a GP-led Urgent Care Centre treating minor injuries.
M&C Saatchi sent NHS bosses research to show that patients found the 'change' message more 'reassuring than closure'.
However, when questioned at last Tuesday’s Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council Health and Social Care Policy and Accountability Committee (PAC) health officials from the CCG, including chair Dr Tim Spicer and vice-chair Dr Susan McGoldrick, told the committee that clinicians would have preferred to have used the word ‘closure’ but took advice from M&C Saatchi whom they described as their ‘professionals in public relations’.
H&F Council Leader, Cllr Stephen Cowan, said; "Using the word 'change' rather than ‘closed’ appeared to be deliberately designed to distract the public from being upset or concerned about the closure of the A&Es rather than informing them of what was happening and what was in the best interests for them and their loved ones should they ever need accident or emergency health care services."
He added that "this is negligent as the obvious and likely confusion of this approach has a clear potential to cost lives".
The Health and Social Care PAC won assurances that the full brief given to M&C Saatchi would be sent to them, as would the detailed communications outcomes M&C Saatchi had been commissioned to deliver.
Cllr Cowan said: "Saying something will change instead of closing may be more reassuring, but then there is that rather gigantic problem that it is not true. This is a highly misleading campaign George Orwell's Ministry of Truth would have been proud of. It will add to what health officials admit is already a high level of confusion about the differences between urgent care clinics and A&Es."
That likely confusion was demonstrated during H&F’s Health and Social Care PAC meeting when Dr. Mark Spencer, the Medical Director for Shaping A Healthier Future responded to questions about the choices a person might have in deciding whether to go to a proper class 1 A&E or an Urgent Care Clinic if they thought they, or a loved one, might be suffering possible symptoms of a serious medical condition such as meningitis or an possible emergency such as chest pains. Dr. Spicer asserted that the "recommendation would always be to go to an accident & emergency department." However, Sarah Garrett, a Communications Consultant for H&F Clinical Commissioning Group underlined the difficulty in an individual making that choice when she later told the PAC meeting "People don’t understand the difference between an A&E and an urgent care centre".
Cllr Cowan said; "We are against the closure of this A&E but this is also all very insightful into how these people are making decisions about our NHS. Health officials and M&C Saatchi need to come clean and explain why they’ve taken this Orwellian approach. They claim it is to inform local residents but use deliberately misleading language which is against the better judgement of clinicians and in a campaign being run over the school summer holidays when many people will be away.
"Providing people with an understanding of the right place to go in an accident or emergency should be the highest priority with this £400,000 tax-payer-funded communications campaign. Having looked at the evidence and heard their explanations, that is clearly not their goal. This demonstrates another serious failure of judgement and one that they will be held accountable for as our campaign to save our hospitals carries on".
On Thursday, two days after H&F’s Health and Social Care PAC, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust published board papers which confirmed their proposals to demolish Charing Cross hospital and replace it with a GP-led health centre which would see:
• Closure of A&E services to be replaced with an Urgent Care Centre
• Loss of 336 acute beds and all acute surgery
• Proposal to sell of the majority of Charing Cross Hospital site.
Health officials argue that closing A&Es and centralising services at fewer hospitals will improve patient care.
However Cllr Cowan said: "What we are seeing nationally within the NHS is hugely confusing and misleading for residents. They believe that they can take away vast swathes of emergency facilities without people noticing.
"This council will not allow that to happen. We will expose what is going on at every stage and use all our influence and powers to block future plans to demolish Charing Cross Hospital and take away its emergency services."
As a retired nurse from the late 'fifties' I am bieng lied to by the 'powers that be' Imperial College for example, medical 'experts'etc.etc. ad nauseam regarding 'benefits' to patients.
Patients are the last people they are considering. Eack 'client' is considered to be one financial unit amongst thousands of us 'mugs'

They may fool some of the people some of the time but, believe me we are old and wise enough to know exactly what they are up to behind our backs
From VICTIM on 31/07/2014 at 13:39
Agree with GAJR and Roy Grainger. Mr Cowan - why aren't YOU launching a judicial review into this issue? It directly affects your residents and the future of this borough. The closures and demolition are scandalous, why are you not doing everything in your power to stop it? Wouldn't the launch of a judicial review would stop the action until there is an outcome?
From Philippa on 31/07/2014 at 13:20
Please everybody do read Nikolai's comment. Yes it's sad to hear about the PR angle on A&E (and it would be good to know the cost), but I'm yet to see a balanced presentation of the west London healthcare issues from either H&F party. I suspect this is the more misleading as its populist angle will win always more votes, but with the information available to us it's pretty hard to be sure.
From Nick on 30/07/2014 at 21:27
This council has been in place for just two months and will, I believe, do all possible to fight these proposals. The last council did absolutely nothing and still had the nerve to send out, about a year ago, a glossy leaflet stating that they had " saved Charing Cross " If pigs could fly bacon would go up.
From Les C on 30/07/2014 at 20:40
Sorry do I get it right that NHS is spending nearly half a million taxpayers money on an advertising campaign ? I think this is totally out of line and people who have authorised this spending have to be fired. I pay quite a lot of taxes as I am in the higher bracket - I do not mind it when it is spent for public good but this is clearly not the case here! This has to be stopped!
From Alex on 30/07/2014 at 20:26
I am also not in favour in closing the A&E. I am a Nurse & had a collapsed & suffered chest pain during my working hours in the Trust & the same thing you have to queue, no special treatment & have to wait too. Thanks God I survived , really the staff are all great but the work loads is too much and patients census is increasing, so if emergency crisis occur- where to send them ?
From MGLM on 30/07/2014 at 20:06
Cllr Cowan's influence over government is rather limited and central government is able to ride roughshod over his protestations. The NHS is accountable to the SoS for Health. Whilst not an apologist for any politician, all he can do is raise awareness and in so doing ensure the govt does not get an easy pass. As someone who has recently suffered a stroke and received excellent care from Charing Cross Hospital, I am against the closure of this priceless facility.
From Toks on 30/07/2014 at 18:46
The hospital closure campaign has been extremely misleading and the lack of public consultants is despicable. In any event, I don't believe that downsizing the NHS will be beneficial and I am totally against selling off the irreplaceable assets. Although there has been an alarming decline NHS services over the last ten years, more consideration should be given to correcting the internal problems e.g. doctors (and nurses) having too little time to do their work properly.
From Malcolm on 30/07/2014 at 15:40
Good to read some sense from Martin and Nikolai. 
From Helen on 30/07/2014 at 15:29
I do not care how they present their services so long as they produce those services when I require them. Unfortunately they do not work for my convenience but their own. Has anybody test run their A& E provision to see if it is there and available
From Zabavnik on 30/07/2014 at 14:24
What I cannot understand is how those responsible for taking these decisions still manage to sleep peacefully at night...
From Paolo on 30/07/2014 at 14:19
As a resident of Hammersmith and a former patient of Charing Cross hospital I am totally against the closure of the A&E and the demolition of the majority of the hospital which I consider an irreplaceable local resource. My partner has been admitted twice for successful, emergency treatment for a stroke and I don't know what we would have done if we'd had to have gone further afield for an A&E department, or worse had to make a decision as to whether a minor injuries clinic would have been appropriate. Please think again! We need our hospital!
From Milly Burns on 30/07/2014 at 13:57
Thank goodness we've got Cllr Cowan as our Leader. If we are to win any concessions it will be due to him and his colleagues and all those "foot soldier" helpers. I am sorry I am no longer able to play an active part in saving our hospitals that mean so much to us all.
From june bennett on 30/07/2014 at 13:49
For a population the size of Leeds to be reduced to this level of cottage-hospital cover is scandalous. What are our taxes for?
From Guy Lloyd on 30/07/2014 at 13:47
The one question the health chiefs must be asked is how many deaths are they going to see as acceptable to back up the wholesale closure of our NHS services.
It's time to sack the chiefs to save the NHS...
From Steve on 30/07/2014 at 13:39
I am completely baffled why Imperial is to close A&Es. Accident and Emergency - the clue is in the name - and valuable time will be wasted getting urgent cases to emergency care.
From Sam Covington on 30/07/2014 at 13:11
The campaign announcing changes is clearly mendacious. This should prompt a complaint to the Ombudsman and other relevant authorities, immediately, accompanied by an application to the court for suspending Saachi meanwhile.

The plans described clearly fail to provide adequate A & E services to west London residents. The Council should actually quantify the risk and thus potential costs of closures - as the result is likely to be legal cases against the NHS (i.e. ultimately US)
From Vaughan on 30/07/2014 at 12:31
It would be helpful to know what is the difference between "an urgent care clinic" and an "A&E".
From Martin on 30/07/2014 at 12:21
It seems to me that closing any A&E unit would be an act of folly and stupidity beyond belief. The people that make these ''decisions'' seem not to live in the same world as us mere mortals. I urge Cllr Cowan to do whatever is necessary to change this illogical decision.
From ANH on 30/07/2014 at 12:20
Horrified - not simply by the Orwellian tactics but by the wanton destruction of a first-class, recently renovated hospital on which I, like everyone I know locally, rely for medical care.
From alison brown on 30/07/2014 at 12:16
"Health officials argue that closing A&Es and centralising services at fewer hospitals will improve patient care."

Yes - that is true, and it is accepted across the world.

The change in London could have happened ten years ago, but which politician would back it then?

Specialisation in heart and stroke care in London has already saved hundreds of lives. Did you oppose that?

Cancer care is next to be changes to just a few London hospitals - will you oppose that?

As long as the changeover is funded properly, you are just being popularist in opposing this change for blue-light trauma cases.
From Martin on 30/07/2014 at 12:08
Tip of the iceberg. And to think that under the spotlight of the Olympics, the World was given the NHS as an example of British achievement... What a farce. If there's a revolution, count me in.
From MissTG on 30/07/2014 at 12:01
Two details:
1) - "Health officials argue that closing A&Es and centralising services at fewer hospitals will improve patient care.� That if the various traffic Jams allow the patient to reach the destination.
2) - LBHF being one of the highest populated borough it is going to cause even more congestion for the "few left" emergency services which presently are struggling already.
M&C Saachi & NSH bosses are adding insults to injury (no pun intended). Shame on them.
From Happy-AOP on 30/07/2014 at 12:00
Why is nobody launching a Judicial Review? No public consultation, government lying through its teeth, again. Residents clearly don't want the changes. Democracy and all that? Or are we now under a totalitarianism regime? Feeling more and more like the latter.
From GAJR on 30/07/2014 at 11:50
This whole process of closing hospitals is being driven purely for financial and profitable reasons, the bottom line is let's make money, this is a wider issue inside of the NHS now they are getting ready for the privatisation of huge sectors of the NHS, the other managers and doctors who are driving this ridiculous policy through have no more than pounds signs in their eyes they will make hundreds of millions of pounds the stench of corruption whirls around this whole policy, as for the selling off of Charing Cross Hospital site everybody knew that once the A&E had gone the trusts would sell off the land to their friends to build billionaires luxury housing for their Chinese and Russian friends turning a little bit more of this Borough into a billionaires yuppie ghetto
From william chick on 30/07/2014 at 11:44
Misinformation is being piled upon misinformation! Do the ''powers that be'' actually know how long it takes to travel out of Fulham to a real A&E department, e.g. Chelsea & Westminster? It can sometimes take as long as an hour just to travel the length of Fulham Palace Road! The idea that closing A&E departments such as those at Charing Cross or Hammersmith Hospitals will somehow improve outcomes is absurd. And, as already pointed out, how are patients supposed to know if their particular complaint is a genuine emergency and therefore travel to the right location for treatment? I despair!
From SueJ on 30/07/2014 at 11:31
I am horrified by the weasel words used in a publically-funded so-called 'information' campaign. The local closures - sorry, changes - are ill-conceived. St Mary's is already in breach of its A&E targets and hard to reach by public transport - hardly a local solution for patients in West London. Perhaps the DoH is hoping we'll all die before we can access expert medical care - and I write as a cancer patient.
From DebT on 30/07/2014 at 11:26
As a Fulham resident since 1984, it will be a very sad day if Charing Cross Hospital is demolished. Paying Charles Saatchi's agency �400,000 to mislead consumers, against the wishes of clinicians, sounds like a shocking misuse of public funds.
From Julian on 30/07/2014 at 11:24
Having worked on change in the NHS for well over a decade, I think it would be great if, instead of these crude "save our hospital" type editorials, we could have a genuine cross-political-party, cross-community dialogue and consensus on changes to the NHS.

Modernising secondary care in London, and specifically looking at ideas around centralised hyper-acute services, and localising low-acuity services, was a process kicked off by the previous Government, and broadly approved by local administrations in London. The differences in actual policy on the NHS between the parties are paper-thin.

The days of the DGH that does everything are dead and gone - that's not a political view, it's economic practical reality. Supply-side reforms and efficiency are desperately needed to keep the NHS afloat.

So how's about instead of the confrontational nonsense above (both parties guilty in this!), we actually get together to discuss positive ideas about how we're going to change things, and front up to our constituents that, unfortunately, we can't all be winners when things change.
From Nikolai on 30/07/2014 at 11:17
Stephen Cowan PROMISED to BLOCK the changes at Charing Cross in the manifesto on which he was elected. So why doesn't he get on and do it instead of issuing rambling statements like this?
From Roy Grainger on 30/07/2014 at 11:13

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