Saturday, 31 January 2015

NHS – Time to concentrate on the facts

The crisis in the NHS has dominated national news since New Year, but the crisis in west London is into its third year – since the announcement in 2012 that four A&Es and two major hospitals would be closed or downgraded.

Although I'm pleased that the country is waking up to the Coalition Government’s cuts and privatisation agenda, I don’t want to lose track of the battle we have to win to save Charing Cross from the wrecking ball.

A&E waiting times here are among the worst in the country. One in four people is waiting more than four hours. Before Christmas that rose to one in three at Charing Cross.

The spike started as soon as Hammersmith and Central Middlesex A&Es closed last September.

So the idea that they should press ahead with the demolition of Charing Cross is now demonstrably stupid. But that is exactly what David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt wish to do.

Last week I was able to question the managers at Imperial, the NHS Trust who run Charing Cross, Hammersmith and St Mary’s Hospital, at the council’s health scrutiny meeting. I asked their Deputy Chief Executive if they would reconsider the demolition in the light of the A&E crisis. He refused to answer.

Demolition at Charing Cross would mean not only losing the A&E but 336 of 360 inpatient beds, the world-class stoke unit and all emergency consultant services. Only planned day surgery, a GP-run ‘emergency centre’ and some outpatient treatment services would remain on the site. The rest would be sold off for flats.

I have continued to raise the issue in Parliament at every opportunity. Last week in a full debate on the NHS I highlighted several cases residents have brought to my attention where people with serious injuries have waited at the roadside for up to two hours for an ambulance.

I also raised the case of Mrs Fahy, a 94 year-old constituent who, after being rushed to A&E, was forced to wait six hours in a corridor before being seen at Charing Cross. But after one night she was moved to Hammersmith Hospital because there were no beds available. [LINK]

Because I thought this perfectly illustrated the folly of both closing the A&E and losing 905 of the inpatient beds at Charing Cross I also raised Mrs Fahy’s case at Prime Minister’s Questions. Here is his response.
I leave you to judge whether he should continue in that job after May. Later that day in the Commons I corrected the record.

None of the complaints I receive about the ambulance, A&E or health service generally blame the staff. The nurses I recently met at Charing Cross share exactly the same fears as their patients. The quality of care is excellent and the compassion of staff at all levels is something everyone remarks on.

But we are setting them an impossible task. The resources at present are not able to cope with demand. Further closures are unthinkable.

I still believe the battle to save Charing Cross can be won.

• There is increasing clinical evidence opposing the Government's view. This week the RCN, giving evidence to the Mansfield Inquiry set up by west London Labour councils, said further closures should be suspended.

The College of Emergency Medicine debunked the view that further A&E closures would improve the service by concentrating it in fewer location.

• A big public rally will be held at Hammersmith Town Hall on 10 March in support of London’s NHS – and Charing Cross in particular.

• Eight west London Labour MPs have written to Hunt to demand a moratorium on closures. Together we represent almost a million people.

• I am writing to everyone in Hammersmith to ask them to support the call by Save our Hospitals for the 'Shaping a Healthier Future' closure programme to be suspended pending an independent clinical investigation and proper public consultation. Please sign my petition here.

Andy Slaughter MP for Hammersmith

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