Save Our Hospitals is a resident-led campaign group formed in July 2012. We are FIGHTING against the NHS plans to DEMOLISH Charing Cross Hospital and downgrading of our A&Es( Hammersmith, Charing Cross, Ealing and Central Middlesex Hospitals)
Thursday, 28 August 2014
Cllr Julian Bell: Family emergency was timely reminder of why its wrong to close our A&Es
Ealing Council leader Julian Bell criticises Government plans to close local Accident and Emergency wards in his latest column.
This week one of my grown up daughters anxiously explained to me that she was experiencing pain in the centre of her chest and that she was having difficulties breathing. She had a possible explanation for the pain as earlier in the day she thought she may have pulled a muscle in her sternum area whilst moving a bed to do some cleaning but she hadn't felt anything at the time so the intense pain she was now feeling may be due to something else.
She read up all the possible causes of the symptoms on the internet and of course a heart attack was prominent amongst these. I advised her to call NHS 111 the new emergency telephone advice service and after a number of conversations with an advisor and a paramedic they recommended she went to the nearest A&E at Hammersmith Hospital within the hour.
It was a worrying and stressful experience only made more bearable by the knowledge that Hammersmith A&E was close by and was also the best place to go in the event that the worse case scenario of a heart attack was happening. In these moments of deep anxiety and worry you are acutely aware of how time is of the essence, that proximity to help is vital and that speed could be a matter of life and death. Why then are 4 out of 9 A&Es being closed in NW London in the biggest experiment in NHS history making it much further away for many residents to access an A&E in an emergency?
Much to our relief when we arrived at A&E the doctor was able to speedily confirm that my daughter's heart was fine and that her far more prosaic diagnosis of the causes of her symptoms was spot on. Moving her bed in order to Hoover behind it had indeed caused the rather frightening symptoms she had experienced!
But this experience begs quite a few questions. What if this had happened on 10 September where would we have gone and how long would it have taken? Would we have gone to an unproven stand alone Urgent Care Centre (UCC) - the Doctor we saw at Hammersmith expressed his concerns about UCCs operating without the back up of an on site A&E and also made the obvious point about A&Es needing to be close to the people.
Save Our Hospitals campaigners
Although it turned out that we only needed UCC treatment (painkillers) the symptoms were such that we would have definitely gone to an A&E - probably either the soon to be closed Charing Cross or Ealing - in case it was a heart attack but would we then have been redirected back to Hammersmith if the worst had happened as the place in west London where heart attack victims will be treated? All these changes are mired in confusion and I believe are clinically dangerous.
Another justification for these changes - that fewer, bigger A&Es serve people better - suffered a blow this week. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) published the results of a recent inspection at Northwick Park and Central Middlesex A&Es. Northwick Park the larger and to be expanded A&E was judged 'required improvement' while the smaller and due to be closed A&E at Central Middlesex was rated 'good'.
I've often described these A&E closures as crazy and putting lives at risk but after the last week's experiences and news I am even more convinced that this is the case. Local people need to have a local A&E, easily accessible and fully equipped but unless the closures are halted on 10 September this will not be available and we will be moving into dangerous and unchartered territory. It is almost but not quite too late for the government to think again. I hope they do but I very much doubt it.
Read more columns by Ealing's leading politicians: For Labour - Councillor Julian Bell, Virendra Sharma MP and Steve Pound MP, for the Conservatives Angie Bray MP and Councillor Greg Stafford and for the Liberal Democrats Councillor Gary Malcolm.