Monday, 26 September 2016

Charing Cross - no news is only partly good news

The attempt to demolish our main local – and one of the UK’s leading – hospital is now into its fifth year and some readers may have lost track of all the twists and turns.  For them I have penned this summary.

In fact, not much concrete has happened in the last few months, and now we know why.  The cash crisis and the failure to meet targets is so bad that they can neither afford the grandiose redevelopment of St Mary’s Hospital and rebuilding Charing Cross as a primary care centre, nor can they risk taking over 300 acute beds out of the system when primary, community and social care cannot cope as things are. 

Imperial are running more than a £50 million deficit this year.  They are missing their A&E and treatment times every month.  In an admirably frank interview, broadcast on BBC, the Chairman of Imperial told the Save our Hospitals campaigners that they had no money and the staff were working at breaking point.  This is what I and other MPs have been told privately for some weeks.

This week we were supposed to have the detailed plans for Charing Cross’ demolition – first mooted in June 2012 and promised annually since.  Once again they were postponed to ‘sometime in 2017’ but I have no faith in them coming to fruition in the foreseeable future.  Certainly it will now be impossible to start demolition before 2020 and another general election.  

But I still say this is only partly good news.  They still want to reduce acute beds by 500 across west London despite increasing pressures, and the reason for delay is not extra but lack of resources.

In a further twist the Orwellian ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ project has been subsumed into the north-west London ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plan’ (STP). Old wine in new bottles, save that every part of the country will have an STP. That’s good in the sense that we are not being singled out for worse treatment than other areas any more; bad in that – judging by the new Government’s response when we debated this last week – there is going to be no extra money anywhere for the NHS.

All parts of the NHS have been ordered to sign up to their local STPs on pain of being cut out of what resources there are – and that includes local councils which now have responsibility for public health.  I am pleased to say H&F and Ealing Councils have refused to sign – on the basis that by doing so they were agreeing to the demolition of Charing Cross and Ealing Hospitals.

Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith

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