Ealing Hospital Merger

by Nigel Bakhai on 31 December, 2011

At the December meeting of Ealing Council. I called for a cross-party campaign to save Ealing Hospital and suggested a joint letter to the Chief Executive of Ealing Hospital on behalf of all three political parties represented on Ealing Council and all residents to express their concern at the proposed merger between Ealing Hospital Trust and North West London Hospitals Trust.

Speaking on behalf of the Lib Dem council group, I raised a number of issues with the Outline Business Case for the merger “Stronger Together” approved by the board of Ealing Hospital Trust at its meeting in November, and in particular stated our total opposition to the unacceptable proposal of scenarios 3 and 4 in the report which would involve the downgrading Ealing Hospital from a District General Hospital to an Urgent Care Centre for the following reasons:

•Ambulance times and distances travelled would be longer which could be potentially life threatening if travelling through congested roads in an emergency if the A&E at Ealing Hospital is closed.

•Patients would be required to travel longer distances to access services which would greatly inconvenience patients attending appointments or their visitors in the event of a stay in hospital. This is compounded by the poor public transport connections between Ealing and Northwick Park.

•We are concerned about Northwick Park Hospital’s ability to cope with the additional patients it is likely to receive, especially in the Accident & Emergency unit. Following the recent announcement about overnight closures of the A&E at Central Middlesex Hospital, there is undoubtedly concern over the capacity of North West London Hospitals Trust to cope with existing demand, and this would be especially compounded if the A&E at Ealing Hospital were to close

•We would 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. For many residents in Ealing it would be far more convenient to attend hospital appointments in Hillingdon than to go to Northwick Park. The financial savings estimated for a merger of all three trusts would also potentially be greater than the Outline Business Case envisages for the merger with NWLHT.

•We are concerned about the planned lack of consultation and communication with residents over the merger. Ealing Hospital Trust needs to consult with the public over the merger not just over service changes. Ealing Hospital does not currently meet Foundation Trust status and any merger potentially threatens A&E, Maternity and other services which do not currently meet government clinical best practice guidelines.

•NHS North West London is planning to begin a formal consultation on service changes across the whole of North West London in June while 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 its plans for merger on hold until we can understand the intentions of NHS North West London towards the future commissioning of services from Ealing Hospital. 

I concluded my speech by saying: “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.”

Both Labour and Conservative leaders indicated at the meeting that they were willing to accept this suggestion, but neither party responded to the text of my proposed letter to the Chief Executive of Ealing Hospital Trust and in the end the Lib Dem council group were the sole signatories to the letter.

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