Council Publishes Formal Response as NHS Consultation Ends

Says proposals to close A&E services are "unsafe"

Hammersmith and Fulham Council has published its formal response to the NHS Consultation on its plans for local hospitals, which closed on Monday night.

The council's response condemns the NHS proposals, which include closing A&E services at Hammersmith and Charing Cross Hospitals, plus Charing Cross' hyper-acute stroke unit, as "unsafe".

The council’s official response to the Shaping a healthier future consultation states: " The council considers that there are several key flaws in the proposals. The proposals are consequently seen as unsafe from the council’s perspective."

Its says the proposals fail on three of the four key tests for all health reforms:
There are fundamental problems with the consultation process
The proposals are not based on adequate clinical evidence; and
There is a lack of due regard for the impact on the people who live and work in Hammersmith & Fulham.

Councillor Marcus Ginn, H&F Council’s cabinet member for community care, has been at the forefront of the council's campaign against the closures. He said: "Our research, and an independent report by former NHS chief executive Timothy Rideout, shows NHS North West London’s consultation is flawed and that any hard evidence that services for local people will improve is missing.

" Decisions on hospital service closures are being made with no guarantee that alternative community services will be able to cope.

" Little effort has been made to alert local people to the closures. The timing of the consultation during the school holidays and while the Olympics were on in the borough has caused huge anger locally.

" Ultimately this is a skewed consultation that does not offer local people a full picture of the current health service or of what is being proposed."

There are also fears that downgrading Charing Cross will lead to the complete closure and sale of the hospital, which is sitting on a valuable site on Fulham Palace Road.

A public meeting on September 18 at Hammersmith Town Hall to discuss the consultation heard that GPs are not ready to take up the strain of A&E closures, ambulance journey times to overstretched out-of-borough A&Es will increase and, if four out of the nine A&Es close (at Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Central Middlesex and Ealing hospitals), a population equivalent to the size of Sheffield will be left without a single local A&E. The council’s response to the consultation also echoes these concerns.

The Shaping a healthier future consultation ended at midnight on Monday. Since the consultation began in June, residents have been campaigning against the proposals, and on Saturday, October 6, around 400 local people took part in a protest march timed to coincide with the consultation's close, which went from Shepherd's Bush - home to Hammersmith Hospital - down through Hammersmith, past Charing Cross Hospital, to a rally at Lillie Road Recreation Ground.

A petition organised by the campaign has gathered 60,000 signatures, and a separate petition provided by the council has gathered 22,000 signatures.

The Shaping a Healthier Future consultation has been strongly criticised by a number of parties, including Hammersmith and Fulham Labour council Stephen Cowan, who called it a "one-side sales pitch" and H & F Council, who argue that the questions it contains could lead respondents into answers they may not want to give.

NHS North West London put forward three options for how hospital services could change, but all of these options involve closing one of the three local A &E departments.

The consultation has also been condemned by Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter as an attempt to "divide and rule", by pitting hospitals against each other, with the result that Chelsea and Westminster Hospital has been asking residents to vote for Option A in the consultation, which means closing the A &E at Charing Cross.

Describing this news as "unbelievable" he says he has written to the Chair of Chelsea and Westminster asking for this to be stopped immediately.

The march on Saturday followed two local meetings where hundreds of local people quizzed representatives of NHS North West London about the plans. You see see a video of one of these public meetings at Hammersmith Town Hall here.

Save Our Hospitals is run by a group of local people along with MP Andy Slaughter. You can find out more about its activities including this week's march at is website  and follow it on twitter, hashtag #Saveourhospitals.

You can read more about the ocuncil's opposition to the plans on its website at Save Charing Cross Hospital and Save Hammersmith Hospital.

Find out more about the campaign at Save Our Hospitals.

October 9, 2012