Thursday, March 30, 2017
Health chiefs under fire over ‘cuts and closures plan’

Health chiefs under fire over ‘cuts and closures plan’

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Save Our Hospitals campaigners gathered at St Paul's Church to protest against the STP in September

Health bosses are under mounting pressure to rule out the closure of Charing Cross Hospital after protestors stepped up their campaign against NHS cuts.

Controversial plans that will shape the future of the health service in Hammersmith and Fulham are due to be published in October.

The “sustainability and transformation plan” is one of 44 that are being drawn up across the country in a bid to restructure cash-strapped health services.

But critics fear the document will spell the end for Charing Cross and nearby Ealing Hospital.

Dozens of protestors from the Save Our Hospitals campaign gathered outside St Paul’s Church in Hammersmith last week, armed with banners and placards.

They claimed that “NHS bureaucrats” were determined to close the two local hospitals in an attempt to balance the books.

Campaign secretary Anne Drinkell said: “We are here to protest that the voices of local people in Hammersmith and Fulham have not been listened to.

“We are not against change but it should be for clinical not budgetary reasons. This is the same old cuts and closures plan.”

Several NHS organisations are working together to draw up the transformation document – but both Hammersmith and Fulham and Ealing councils have refused to sign up to the plan.

An investigation by the Guardian revealed that proposals to reduce the number of acute hospitals in the north west London area from nine to five were advocated in a draft version of the document.

It has also been suggested that the plan will focus on developing community services and a system of “virtual” care.

Save Our Hospitals campaigner Jim Grealy said the STP was simply about saving money.

“The local health service is to be put through an experiment of an impossible kind,” he said.

“They plan to move as much care as possible out of hospitals and into the community. It will put pressure on housing, it will put pressure on education.

“We have to stand up for our service. If we do not, nobody else will. And once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Councillor Stephen Cowan, the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council, sided with the campaigners and pledged to fight the STP.

“It’s now absolutely clear that the Conservative government are cynically using this STP to sell off most of our hospital and cut our local NHS,” he said.

“Their latest plans for north west London are no more than a badly written rehash of their earlier plan.

“We are defending Charing Cross Hospital from demolition and will not let them turn our A&E into an urgent care clinic – and I know our residents stand with us in this fight.”

In a further development, a senior west London health boss was caught on camera as he laid bare the extent of the funding crisis affecting the NHS.

Sir Richard Sykes, the chairman of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Charing Cross Hospital and is one of the key organisations involved in drawing up the STP, was filmed speaking to campaigners ahead of the trust’s annual meeting on Wednesday (September 14).

“The NHS is suffering today very badly. If you go back to 1948, it’s gone through these periods when it’s been cash-strapped. Today it’s really cash-strapped,” he said.

“The capacity just isn’t there at the moment. The A&E is a big problem. Waiting times are a big problem. Referral to treatment is a problem.

“This is happening not just here but throughout the country. The finances are very, very strained.”

During the meeting, Dr Tracey Batten, the trust’s chief executive, said there would be no changes to services at Charing Cross until there were “adequate” community alternatives in place.

A spokeswoman for the North West London Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “There are no plans to close Charing Cross or Ealing Hospitals, now or in the future.

“The Secretary of State has made clear that an accident and emergency department will remain at Charing Cross and Ealing Hospitals though this may be in a different shape and form.

“The STP is focused on making sure we meet the needs of all our residents, and get them the care they need in the setting that’s right for them.

“Sometimes that’s at home, sometimes that’s in a community setting, and sometimes that will be in a hospital.”

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Health chiefs under fire over ‘cuts and closures plan’