Wednesday, 18 January 2017

‘Secrecy and subterfuge’ behind plans for health shake-up

Cllr Stephen Cowan spoke out against the NHS plans during the meeting


Local NHS leaders are being blocked from speaking out against controversial plans for a shake-up of health services by a “wall of silence and secrecy”, a senior health consultant has claimed.
Health chiefs were also accused of “subterfuge” over the proposals during a heated town hall meeting.
Campaigners fear the local ‘sustainability and transformation plan’ will lead to the closure of Charing Cross Hospital.
But NHS bosses have repeatedly denied the claims and insist that the hospital “is not closing”.
Hundreds of people packed out Hammersmith Town Hall as campaigners pledged to fight for local health services.
And in a stinging attack, one of the plan’s biggest critics claimed even NHS leaders were now concerned about the proposals.
Roger Steer, a health consultant who co-authored an official review of the plan, said local experts were being prevented from expressing their views because of an “enforced wall of silence and secrecy”.
He also suggested health chiefs had no intention of engaging with patients, adding: “We see no point in mincing our words about this. What it seems to be about is removing the local veto. That means local communities, councillors and campaigners.”
Senior clinicians published the ‘sustainability and transformation plan’ for north west London last month.
It is one of 44 documents being drawn up across the country in a bid to restructure cash-strapped health services.
Bosses say there are no plans to close Charing Cross Hospital over the next five years.
But campaigners believe the document is a smokescreen for “cuts and closures”.
A panel of speakers addressed the meeting at Hammersmith Town Hall on Tuesday (November 29), including local politicians, members of the Save Our Hospitals campaign and a senior doctor.
Dr David Wingfield, chairman of the Hammersmith and Fulham GP Federation, suggested the STP was not equipped to tackle the health and social care problems facing the borough.
He offered to form a “grand alliance” between GPs, councillors and members of the community to confront local healthcare challenges.
“The STP cannot do it, only we can. Together we can solve these problems. Together we can deliver,” he added.
Stephen Cowan, the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council, which has refused to support the plan, suggested patients’ views were being ignored.
“We are not against reforming the NHS. There are things that need to be improved, no one disputes that,” he said.
“But I believe honesty is important. If you respect people then tell them the truth. People will not stand for this, that is the reason we are going to win.”
In a statement, the Imperial College NHS Trust, which runs Charing Cross, denied that the hospital was due to be closed.
A spokesman said: “We want to reassure our staff, patients, local residents and partners that Charing Cross is not closing and that there will be no reduction in the hospital’s A&E and wider services during the lifetime of the STP, which runs until April 2021.”
The North West London Clinical Commissioning Group said the STP was “a product of partnership with local government and the health service working together”.
A spokeswoman said: “This is the beginning rather than the end of the process. We will continue to engage with all our communities across the borough.
“The STP is an umbrella plan – the parts that sit underneath will all need engagement as we reach them and we will continue that discussion.”
By Jack Dixon -
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December 1, 2016

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