Standing Room Only at Hammersmith Town Hall

Save Our Hospitals report on packed meeting on future of health care

More than 600 people crammed into the main hall at Town Hall on November 30th where the leaders of Hammersmith & Fulham and Ealing councils, Steve Cowan and Julian Bell, slammed the new local health plan to close Ealing and Charing Cross Hospitals as acute hospitals over the next few years.

They were joined on the platform by Merril Hammer, Chair, and Anne Drinkell, Secretary, from Save Our Hospitals, and GLA member Dr Onkar Sahota, respected local GP, Dr David Wingfield and Roger Steer, health researcher who has closely examined NHS plans for NW London.

Both council leaders pointed out that the plans had been drawn up behind closed doors by local NHS bosses who demanded that the council leaders sign off the plans when they’d only been given a vague two page summary.

They refused! They demanded to see the full plans and then saw that this involved the closure of immanent closure of both hospitals with the loss of nearly 600 acute beds. ‘Compensation’ for agreeing closure would possibly be available to the councils for adult social care.

Steve Cowan poured particular scorn on health bosses’ claims that a downgraded Charing Cross would retain an A&E service. "This new facility," he pointed out, "‘would just be a rebranded minor injuries urgent care clinic which would lose its current blue light ambulances, consultants, specialist staff and acute beds. The public would not be taken in by this rebranding."

Merril Hammer, Chair of SOH, told the audience that there was no published evidence that closures would either be financially viable or provide a safe health service. For the last few years local health bosses have repeatedly promised to publish evidence that new health plans would work safely.

She said: " The fact that no evidence has been given to the council, campaigners or the public, surely means that it does not exist." She pointed to the currently overstretched hospitals and GP services in NW London.

In later discussion, Dr Gurjinda Singh Sandhu, an A&E consultant at Ealing Hospital, confirmed that during one cold spell in October there was not one single acute bed available across NW London. "The only way we could admit a new patient was if we discharged one other. How could we possibly cope if two more hospitals were to close."

Anne Drinkell, Secretary of SOH, said that the NW London plans for the NHS were basically cuts and closures. The original, Shaping a Healthier Future, plans were a blueprint now to be rolled out across the country. She pointed out that the community strongly supported our NHS and was standing up in defence of services. Over the next few months councils, community groups, trade unions and political parties would need to organise to stop the attacks on our NHS. She noted, in particular, a large national demonstration for the NHS was planned for 4th March 2017, organised by Health Campaigns Together.

An additional danger of the closures was pointed out by medical student, Stephen Naull. He said that even now medical students like himself were finding it difficult to get hospital work placements to pursue their training and to gain specialist experience on wards. Dr Wingfield added that trainee nurses were in a similar position.

Both Dr Onkar Sahota and, from the floor, MP Andy Slaughter, pointed out that Treasury cuts were driving the proposed health plans, not clinical need. Andy Slaughter also pointed out that the delay in closing Charing Cross was simply down to the financial mess in which Imperial College Healthcare Trust found itself.

Save Our Hospitals warmly congratulated both Ealing and H&F Councils for their stand against plans which include hospital closures and inadequate funding of health and social care services.  Steve Cowan and Julian Bell stressed that they had been elected, at least in part, to protect the health facilities for their boroughs. They would pursue every avenue, including legal challenge, to keep our hospitals open.

SOH invites the public to join us in Save Our Hospitals and to support our courageous local authorities.

Jim Grealy, Save Our Hospitals.

You can find out more about the Save Our Hospitals campaign on its website.

September 13, 2016