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Lib Dems give evidence to Independent Review Panel – plan for Hospital closures is madness!

by Nigel Bakhai on 24 July, 2013

Ealing Lib Dems have played an active part in the cross-party campaign in the borough against plans to downgrade 4 A&Es in North West London and other hospital services at Ealing Hospital.

Earlier this month I joined a cross party group of councillors in giving evidence to the Independent Review Panel which has been asked by the Health Secretary to look into the “Shaping a Healthier Future” proposals for the NHS in North West London, and together with local Lib Dem Leader Gary Malcolm, I have now written on behalf of the Lib Dem council group to the IRP to restate our opposition to the proposed closures of the A&Es at Ealing, Central Middlesex, Charing Cross, and Hammersmith Hospitals.

Ealing Lib Dems are totally opposed to these unsafe and ill thought out plans. Clearly the NHS needs to change to cope with the demands of a growing and aging population in this part of London with all its diverse health needs, but we can’t understand how NHS bosses think closing 4 local A&Es is going to improve health outcomes for the people of Ealing.

We believe that the consultation was rushed over the summer period and due to its complexity that it was difficult for many residents who do not have English as their first language to understand. The complex nature of the subject means that more also needs to be done to engage with these vulnerable groups if it goes ahead in order for them to understand the transition to the proposed model of emergency care without putting lives at risk. We are also concerned about the lack of detailed data provided in the consultation in relation to meeting the specific health needs of Ealing’s diverse population, with its higher than average rates of Tuberculosis and Diabetes, especially in the Southall area around the Ealing Hospital site.

We are concerned that the proposal to close 4 A&Es across the area and develop larger A&Es is potentially unsafe. Mortality rates have risen in the two years since the closure of the A&E at Newark Hospital, and it is madness to suggest that people travel long distances on congested roads in an emergency, not to mention hugely inconvenient for patients travelling by public transport to appointments or their friends and family visiting them in hospital. There is national evidence to suggest that smaller A&Es like Ealing are outperforming their larger counterparts, as well as providing more local access to care. Recent statistics show that Ealing is currently performing better in terms of meeting its 4 hour waiting targets than the alternatives proposed in “Shaping a Healthier Future” like Northwick Park, and we are worried that the remaining A&Es would not be able to cope with the increased workload as a result of these closures. Ealing Hospital Trust said in their submission to the Shaping a Healthier Future consultation that they will face difficulties attracting staff and patients which will undermine the clinical and financial case if the proposals go ahead, and they have already had to remind patients in the local press that they are still open.

We believe that the necessary increases in the provision of out-of -hospital services needs to happen before change takes place in downgrading hospital services to ensure there is sufficient capacity in the system. We are also worried that there is also not enough detail in the out-of-hospital strategy and its implementation plan. Many local GP practices are single handed or with one partner, and are often located in cramped conditions so it will be difficult for them to expand in the time proposed. Demand for local GP services is already high and Ealing’s population is growing with an expected 14,000 homes being built across the borough by 2026. It is already very difficult for patients to obtain GP appointments in two weeks which leads to more patients presenting at the A&E, and often this can be in an emergency.

We are concerned about the lack of support for the proposals amongst the local population as evidenced by the thousands in the borough who have signed petitions and joined us in marching against the proposals, but also amongst local GPs and clinicians. A ballot of GP practices run by the Ealing CCG showed that while a majority agreed with the case for change, 72% opposed the favoured option with a majority 54.2% in favour of option C which retained Ealing Hospital. Furthermore, a statement on behalf of Ealing Hospital consultants submitted to the Shaping a Healthier Future consultation said that they believed the urgent care centre only functions safely with co-localised specialist services and that the investment in community care planned as part of Shaping a Healthier Future will not be able to fill the gap created by the major loss of services at Ealing Hospital.

We do not believe the Shaping a Healthier Future proposals meet the four tests set by the Secretary of State for Health in terms of support from GP commissioners, increased patient choice, clarity on clinical evidence, and strengthened patient/public engagement. We think the goals of creating safe, sustainable and accessible health services could be provided in less extreme ways than what is being proposed, and that the benefits of the potential merger of Ealing Hospital and North West London Hospitals have not been fully considered in these plans. We also believe that the national review being conducted by NHS England into emergency care and the recent announcement by the Government about pooling a £3.8 billion budget to integrate health and social care services provides an ideal opportunity to develop an alternative locally responsive system of health care across North West London.

For all these reasons we are calling on the Independent Review Panel to quash the Shaping a Healthier Future proposals and we want as many residents to join us in using this opportunity to tell the IRP exactly what they think about these plans for the future of hospitals in our area. The Independent Review Panel is due to report back to the Health Secretary by 13th September and residents are urged to send postcards back to Ealing Council or contact the IRP directly by email to info@irpanel.org.uk, phoning 020 7389 8046 or by writing to IRP, 6th Floor, 157-197 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9SP.

Cllrs Nigel Bakhai and Gary Malcolm sign Lib Dem IRP submission

Cllrs Nigel Bakhai and Gary Malcolm sign Lib Dem IRP submission

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