“High calibre”: Michael Mansfield QC will lead the inquiry set up by four west London councils (Picture: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images)
Barrister Michael Mansfield is to lead an inquiry into changes to A&E services in west London amid concerns that lives are being put at risk.
He will investigate whether there is a link between the closure of two casualty units — and the planned downgrading of two larger A&Es — and worsening delays for patients seeking emergency treatment. The inquiry has been set up by four councils concerned at the impact of the A&E closures at Central Middlesex and Hammersmith hospitals and longer-term changes at Charing Cross and Ealing hospitals.
Mr Mansfield is one of the UK’s most high-profile barristers, having taken part in court cases and inquests involving Stephen Lawrence and Jill Dando and the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.
Ealing council leader Julian Bell said: “By engaging someone of the calibre of Michael Mansfield QC to carry out this independent review, we know that the public will get a true picture of what is happening and if the NHS is keeping its word about providing new services before others are closed.”
Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent council, said patients using Northwick Park and Ealing hospitals faced the longest delays in the country as a result of the knock-on impact of the two closures, in September.
NHS England figures show that London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Northwick Park and Ealing, was last week the worst-performing trust in the country for delays at main A&Es. Only 70.5 per cent of patients were seen within four hours — the third time in two months the trust has been the worst in the country.
Ambulance crews are forced to check with their control room before taking patients to Northwick Park because its A&E has been so overloaded.
Hammersmith and Fulham council leader Steve Cowan, who brought the councils together, said: “The official figures speak for themselves, but we plan to bring some extra, independent scrutiny to examine what local trusts are doing to our hospitals.”
Hounslow council is also backing the inquiry amid concerns about the impact the changes — under the Shaping A Healthier Future agenda to deliver more care via GPs — is having on West Middlesex hospital.
Imperial College NHS Trust, which runs St Mary’s and Charing Cross hospitals, has warned of “surges in activity” with attendances at its A&Es varying by up to 120 patients on different days.
A spokeswoman for Shaping A Healthier Future said: “We know how important the local NHS is — that’s why we are undertaking this clinically led, long-term programme of work to improve healthcare access and quality for local residents.
“The changes being made in north-west London are not made lightly and are the result of significant public consultation, extensive planning and an in-depth assurance process. As such we welcome any constructive input that will help residents.
Published: 01 December 2014
Updated: 11:17, 01 December 2014 ROSS LYDALL, HEALTH EDITOR