Gone are the days when summer was a period for rest and relaxation. In Hammersmith the busy people at Imperial NHS Trust, on the instructions of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, have been pushing full steam ahead with their plans to close huge swathes of our local health service.
On 30 July, the Imperial Board met to decide the future of A&E services in the borough. The public meeting quickly descended into farce after members of the public (including me) were refused entry by heavy-handed security guards. One quick-thinking campaigner quickly rang up LBC, and I was put live on radio, stuck outside the hospital. Magically, that got us in.
But, despite the protest, the decisions to go ahead with the closures were nodded through in under 30 minutes. I've written more about the decision and what it means on my website.
They're not 'closures', according to Imperial who spent £400,000 on PR, including hiring M&C Saatchi. What does £400,000 get you? Remove the word 'closures' and substitute ‘changes'. Not only pathetic and wasteful but positively misleading.
We also learnt that Imperial hopes to double its £39 million annual private income, while cutting the number of inpatient beds at Charing Cross from 360 to 24.
Stefano Hatfield wrote an excellent article in the Independent about the double-speak that has been an ongoing feature of the way Imperial NHS Trust has chosen to communicate with local people.
Some of you may remember that residents in Edmonton fought a similar campaign against the closure of the A&E at Chase Farm. Like us they were given assurances that there would be improved care, and that those needing emergency treatment could travel to North Middlesex hospital. As the campaigners predicted, North Middlesex is now struggling to cope, with 40,000 extra patients coming through the doors. Nurses have reported that their workload has 'increased significantly' since the closure of Chase Farm.
This worrying report was given extra weight by the experience of Conservative MP David Burrowes, who told the Mail that he waited 12 hours on a trolley at North Middlesex, saying that beleagured staff were 'run ragged'.
I felt I had to tell residents who use Hammersmith Hospital the truth – that the A&E there is closing on– so I wrote a letter to residents explaining the situation. I have had hundreds of responses in support of the Save our Hospitals campaign, from local residents who are standing with us against these closures. The bigger battle to save Charing Cross Hospital from demolition is only just beginning.