‘Dangerous’ closures of Hammersmith and Central Middlesex A&Es are the subject of an inquiry as two million people in west London are left with only seven A&E departments.
The inquiry will be led by renowned ‘radical lawyer’ Michael Mansfield QC as councils, MPs and campaigners have slammed the decision to shut the departments in September.
Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing, Brent and Hounslow councils launched the independent commission to examine the effect on ‘overwhelmed’ hospitals nearby since the closures in September.
Anne Drinkell, secretary of Save Our Hospitals, who campaigned against the closures at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex, pointed to a direct correlation between the A&E closures and extended waiting times.
“We welcome the inquiry because we don’t think ordinary people’s voices have been heard,” said Ms Drinkell.
“I think its fairly obvious when you look at the closures in both Hammersmith Hospital and Central Middlesex hospital, the surrounding A&Es have been overwhelmed.
“Plans have been ill-thought through, more by finance than clinical needs. It’s already showing that there isn’t the capacity in the system to cope with the two A&E closures that happened. We’re saying, ‘For goodness sake, don’t have any more’.”
Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith also faces a possible downgrading of its A&E centre to an emergency centre as part of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ plan.
“A&E closures are already putting dangerous additional pressures on other hospitals and will only get worse.”
Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith, has called for the suspension of Mr Hunt’s programme.
He said: “The performance of west London hospitals has collapsed following the closure of the A&E departments at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex Hospitals in September.
“North West London Trust, that runs Northwick Park and Ealing hospitals, was rated as worst in the country for A&E performance in October. As many as a third of patients were waiting over 4 hours against a target of 95%.
“Imperial (they refuse to provide separate figures for Charing Cross and St Mary’s) fell to 82%. Two million people in west London rely on the remaining seven A&E departments.”
Hammersmith and Fulham Council leader, Stephen Cowan, said: “A&E closures are already putting dangerous additional pressures on other hospitals and will only get worse if services at Charing Cross are also closed.
“The official figures speak for themselves, but we plan to bring some extra, independent scrutiny to examine what local trusts are doing to our hospital services.
“An impartial review is needed, free of vested interests, of the real and likely impact of these major hospital re-configurations and the financial reality behind them.”
A spokesperson from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Hammersmith and Charing Cross hospitals, said: “It is very important to us to work closely with our partners, including patients, local communities and councils and other stakeholders on clarifying what our new models of care should look like in order to meet changing healthcare needs.
“To this end, we welcome any constructive involvement with our partners.”
Image courtesy of mcfarlandmo, with thanks