The Government has explained how it will judge the controversial plans by the local NHS to close the A&E departments at Charing Cross hospital and three other sites. The plans, which many fear would swamp the A&E at Chelsea & Westminster, have been produced by soon-to-be-axed bureaucrats at NHS NW London.
Ministers were responding to the concerns raised in the House of Commons by MPs on both sides about the dangerous travel times and poor service it could produce.
When asked specifically about Charing Cross hospital, the Health Minister, Simon Burns, confirmed that it was still a matter for the local NHS at this stage: “the local NHS has determined locally what it believes is the best reconfiguration of services. That is going out to public consultation and so far no decisions have been taken because the consultation process has only just started. It will last for 14 weeks and then the results of that consultation will be considered.”
The Secretary of State, Andrew Lansley, then explained the criteria by which the Government will judge any final proposals: “the plans being looked at in north-west London are entirely the same ones considered under a Labour Government before the election. I will insist that the plans are subjected to the four tests I have described. If they meet those four tests, they can go ahead; if not, they will not.”
The four Lansley tests were first set out in 2010. Closures, or reconfigurations, of local services must be consistent with the following criteria:
- There must be clarity about the clinical evidence base underpinning the proposals.
They must have the support of the GP commissioners involved.
They must genuinely promote choice for their patients.
The process must have genuinely engaged the public, patients and local authorities.
The consultation is being pushed through by NHS NW London in one of its last acts before it is replaced next year by GP commissioning. Although the new commissioning groups have been involved, it is far from clear that local GPs support the changes.
Commenting, Greg Hands M.P. said: “I’m pleased Ministers have confirmed that these proposals are not Government policy, and will be subject to rigorous scrutiny if NHS North West London press ahead.
“The challenge now is for as many local people as possible to register their opposition. We also need GPs and medics to speak out on behalf of their patients.
“Sign the petition, fill out the consultation, and ask your GP to do the same. Together, we can save Charing Cross and stop Chelsea & Westminster from being swamped.”
Click here to sign H&F Council’s petition to save Charing Cross Hospital.
Click here to take part in the NHS consultation – closes 8 October 2012.
Click here to download a postcard to send to your doctor.