The Future of Ealing Hospital

by Nigel Bakhai on 13 December, 2011

Here is the text of a speech I made at full council in December 2011, in response to a Labour petition on the proposed merger between Ealing Hospital Trust and North West London Hospital Trust

I welcome the opportunity for this debate not least because the Lib Dem group tried to submit a motion on this subject following the decision  by Ealing Hospital Trust to approve its Outline Business Case for merger with North West London Hospital Trust at its board meeting in November.

The Trust’s case for the merger as outlined in the report “Stronger Together” presents 4 potential scenarios for the future of Ealing Hospital. The first is to maintain a District General Hospital at Ealing, the second retains a District General Hospital at Ealing but involves the loss of emergency surgery. However, the third scenario involves the downgrading of Ealing to an Urgent Care Centre with acute medicine and community care, while the fourth scenario results in the downgrading of Ealing to an Urgent Care Centre with only community care.

Under these proposals, residents would have to travel longer, and potentially life threatening distances on congested roads in an emergency,  if the A&E at Ealing Hospital were to close as a result of this merger and there is a lack of public transport between Ealing and Northwick Park which would greatly inconvenience patients attending appointments or their visitors in the event of a stay in hospital. Furthermore, following the recent announcement about overnight closures of the A&E at Central Middlesex, there is undoubtedly concern over the ability of North West London Hospital Trust  to cope with additional patients if Ealing closed.

We in the Lib Dem group would therefore rule out Options 3 and 4 which would down grade Ealing Hospital to an urgent care centre. 

We would also criticise Ealing Hospital Trust over its planned lack of communication with residents. Ealing Hospital Trust need to engage and involve the public in any proposed changes. At the moment, formal consultation is only planned on service changes not on the merger itself. However, the merger will almost inevitably lead to service changes given that Ealing Hospital does not currently meet Foundation Trust status and there is a threat overhanging A&E, Maternity and other services which do not currently meet government clinical best practice guidelines.

As we heard at the Health & Social Services Scrutiny Panel, the clinical commissioning strategy is also not likely to be consulted upon until June and the current proposal in the Outline Business Case is for the merger to go ahead in July. We would therefore urge Ealing Hospital Trust to put the planned merger on hold until the commissioning strategy has been developed and we know what their intentions are towards commissioning of services from Ealing Hospital as well as clear clinical evidence how any service changes will benefit health outcomes for patients.

We would also suggest Ealing Hospital Trust should re-consider other potential options for merger such as a merger with Hillingdon or even a merger for all 3 trusts. There may be, for example, greater back office savings than the £7 million which the Outline Business Case envisages between the merger of 2 trusts. Speaking for myself and those living on or near the Uxbridge Road, I think it would also be much more convenient for patients to hop on a 427 or 607 bus to attend hospital appointments in Hillingdon than try to go to Northwick Park.

Despite the obviously political nature of this petition, we would  urge all sides in this chamber to put our political differences aside over this issue. I would therefore like to propose that all 3 party leaders write a joint letter to the Chief Executive of Ealing Hospital trust expressing their concern over the proposed merger and its potential impact on the future of Ealing Hospital. And we should work together in a cross-party campaign on behalf of all residents in the borough to oppose service changes at Ealing Hospital.

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