Shaping A Healthier Future – NHS North West London plans for hospital services

by Nigel Bakhai on 4 March, 2013

Please find below a copy of my speech to the March meeting of the Health & Adult Social Services Standing Scrutiny Panel on the proposals to reconfigure hospital services across North West London including Ealing Hospital:-

Thank you Chair for giving me a brief opportunity to speak on behalf of the Lib Dem group in response to the Shaping a Healthier Future plans. We have consistently opposed the proposals to close 4 A&Es across our region including Ealing. Lib Dem members have been willing and active participants in the cross party campaign against these hospital closures and we have grave concerns about these plans.

Firstly, we believe the consultation was flawed in that it was designed to favour the preferred option, with only limited alternatives provided. The consultation also failed in terms of equality impact assessment in terms of its impact for many residents in Ealing who do not have English as their first language with a lack of translated materials available making it difficult for them to engage in the process.

Secondly, it is clear from everyone you meet on the doorsteps since this consultation began that there is widespread public opposition to these proposals in Ealing as demonstrated by the 25,000 signatures on the council’s petition and the 1000s who attended other health events in the borough. There is no clinical support with a majority of GPs in Ealing supporting Option C which retains Ealing Hospital. The preferred option is not supported by Ealing Hospital Trust or the Ealing Commissioning Group who have developed alternative proposals with more services being offered on the Ealing Hospital site.

Thirdly, we question the clinical evidence for the proposals. To begin with, there is concern about the ability of primary care and community services to meet increased demand as a result of these changes. Ealing has a growing and aging population with high demands in terms of health needs particularly in relation to diabetes, cardio vascular disease and TB. The out of hospital arrangements are not expected to be in place until 2015 but the proposals begin the hospital transition this year. We believe that by announcing hospital closures before putting the community services in place, Shaping a Healthier Future have effectively put the cart before the horse and risk reducing hospital capacity before alternatives are in place. 

Furthermore, there is no evidence to support the plans for a standalone Urgent Care Centre without a co-located A&E, and there will be risks involved for patients turning up at Ealing and then being redirected to an A&E out of the borough. We also worry how the 4 remaining A&Es will cope with increased demand placed upon them.

We are concerned about distances travelled and travel times, not just for patients and their relatives visiting them in hospital who will be greatly inconvenienced due to lack of public transport but also for ambulances in the event of traffic congestion. There is no information to suggest that the ambulance service have been engaged as to how they will they will cope in the event of these changes.

Even if you accept the case for change, there is insufficient consideration of the proposals for a merger between Ealing Hospital Trust and North West London Hospitals Trust which could potentially deliver some of the savings required through organisational efficiencies without the need for the more radical solution proposed by Shaping a Healthier Future.

We are concerned that the proposals as they stand do not meet the 4 tests used by the Health Secretary –namely, support from GP commissioners, strengthened patient/public engagement , clarity on clinical evidence and offering patient choice. Instead of patient choice and offering care closer to home, the Shaping a healthier future proposals offer patients in Ealing no choice but to go outside the borough for their care and delays may cause great risks in the event of an emergency.  We believe these proposals are potentially deeply damaging to the future of healthcare in Ealing. There is no mandate for these changes and, in the interests of our residents, we must oppose these proposals and believe they should be referred back to the Health Secretary for reconsideration.

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