You might remember the post here of September 2012 describing how thousands of local residents marched and took part in a rally on Ealing Common organised by the SOH Ealing campaign. Well since then October’s public debate at EalingTown Hall drew in 350+ people hostile to NHS NW London’s proposals in October 2012. Then in November a petition signed by 80 000 residents from Ealing and neighbouring borough Hammersmith and Fulham opposing the closure of A&E units at Ealing, Central Middlesex, Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals was handed in to 10 Downing Street. Just this month over 400 people attended a candlelit vigil outside Ealing Hospital.
Well tomorrow the final decision takes place. Worringly it already seems to be a foregone conclusion. Under NHS NW London’s Shaping A Healthier Future (SAHF) consultation and its preferred option A, four of the nine hospitals in NW London (Ealing, Central Middlesex, Charing Cross and Hammersmith) will close their A&E units, retaining only their Urgent Care Centres, which will deal with minor injuries. This will be catastrophic for a number of reasons:
Historically, when A&E units have closed at hospitals the associated support departments have also closed (e.g. maternity, obstetrics, paediatrics, general surgery) because it is considered that they can no longer function safely. NHS NWL’s proposed model of care in SAHF, based on the establishment of new standalone Urgent Care Centres and GP networks, is very largely untested and unproven. Once any decision is announced those hospitals facing any loss of services will face huge damage to morale. Existing staff will inevitably look for work elsewhere and it will become increasingly difficult for them to fill any vacancies. This will lead to a self-fulfilling service decline. It makes a mockery of the shamefaced lie of the airbrushed Cameron in his bid to be elected that he would protect the NHS – most people remember the parodies more than the original anyway.
Admittedly there’s no point in opposing reform for the sake of opposing. If there’s a case for neccessary change in the re-structuring of healthcare however it needs to be based on tested models and clinical evidence showing improved health outcomes. Dr Onkar Sahota, the record-breaking victorious Labour assembly member for Ealing and Hillingdon (who took a seat that in 2012 was stubbornly Tory even in the boom years of Blairism) spoke passionately on this subject at the London Labour party conference on Saturday – and as a local GP he knows what he’s talking about. This however is a shoddy ill-thought through exercise.
We’ll wait to hear tomorrow’s outcome but it looks like this is a meeting contrived to approve a decision already made/ done deal. There is a big demo planned for April 27th – more details to follow. I wish it could be celebration of saving these vital units but fear the worst. Sign up to SOHEaling’s Twitter account here. Their website is here.