Waves of anger at flawed NHS consultation

The voices of 66,000 west London residents have been ignored in a sham consultation designed to justify hospital closures.

The flawed consultation results on NHS North West London's plans to close A&E services in four London hospitals have been greeted with a wave of anger and disbelief in west London.

66,000 signatures included in 18 petitions have only been counted as 18 responses. Despite a vociferous campaign by local residents' groups and their councils, NHS North West London yesterday tried to claim of majority support for its preferred option to close services.

Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council has vowed to continue its battle to protect local health services saying this is another nail in the coffin for Charing Cross that will eventually lead to the closure of the site.

Cllr Nicholas Botterill, H&F Council Leader, says: “It is outrageous that the voices of 66,000 people have been silenced.

“Nobody should be in any doubt that the long-term strategy is the closure of Charing Cross itself. We will do everything we can to protect the site and the hospital’s future. This includes potentially challenging the decision with the Secretary of State.”

He added: "NHS NWL London may try and silence our residents, but H&F Council will make sure that their voices continue to be heard loud and clear. We will do everything possible to save our hospitals."

The consultation cost taxpayers £7million and, despite being branded a ‘sham’ and ‘fundamentally flawed’, the results now threatens the future of Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals. Former NHS chief executive Timothy Rideout spelt out a series of major concerns with the consultation earlier this year. Describing the business case as ‘unsafe’ Mr Rideout criticised a failure to explore alternatives to A&E closures; failure to independently verify the financial modelling and the ‘funnel effect’ of the chosen methodology in the consultation which knocked out viable alternatives before they had a chance to be fairly compared.

But NHS NWL is using their flawed consultation to justify its predetermined preferred option of closing four out of nine A&E units. While the council is warning that if Charing Cross A&E is shut parts of the site will be sold off for redevelopment eventually leading to the closure of the whole hospital.

More than 66,000 people signed petitions to save the four hospitals while the council also points out that:

  • - GPs have publicly stated their opposition to the closure of two A&E units in the borough as they are not yet ready to provide the alternative care that will be needed.
  • - Ambulance journey times to overstretched out-of-borough A&Es will increase dramatically – potentially endangering lives, especially for victims of stroke.
  • - If the current NHS proposals go ahead, the remaining A&E’s would be severely over stretched as they would need to cater for nearly 400,000 people each – at least 50% more than the national average.
  • - No evidence has been provided that moving Charing Cross services to Chelsea & Westminster Hospital would improve outcomes for residents.
  • - With thousands of new homes and jobs coming to H&F the borough needs more local health care capacity, not less.

H&F Council has been warning for years that Charing Cross is being systematically downgraded. In December 2010 the vascular surgery ward at Charing Cross was closed, apparently because of a severe infection outbreak. All vascular surgery was moved to St Mary’s, in Paddington, where it remains, apparently permanently. There was no public consultation on the move and no clinical evidence presented to support the permanent move.

In 2009 Charing Cross was overlooked as the major trauma centre for the area and all six of Charing Cross’ world famous neurosurgeons were forced to provide an on call service at both St Mary’s and Charing Cross without consultation.

If Charing Cross is stripped of its A&E it could free-up lots of room for residential re-development, according to the council. Charing Cross is owned by Imperial College NHS Trust, which historically has been one of the most indebted trusts in London. The Trust would pocket the cash from a sale or redevelopment of any part of the Charing Cross site if they are successful in securing Foundation status.

Greg Hands M.P. added: "NHS North West London's proposal to end A&E services at either Charing Cross or at Chelsea & Westminster will have a devastating impact on my constituency. Half of my constituents will lose their nearest A&E, and the other half will see the surviving A&E put under severe pressure by the additional admissions caused by their neighbour's closure. The NHS needs to think again on this. Their response to the consultation is as flawed as the clinical evidence given for the proposal in the first place."

Cllr Botterill concludes: “There is no evidence that the downgrades of local hospitals will miraculously lead to improved healthcare for our residents. In fact there is a growing suspicion that Charing Cross is being drained of life so that Imperial can sell off parts of this extremely valuable site and plug the black hole in their finances.

“NHS bureaucrats are putting the improvement of their balance sheet before the improvement of residents’ health and we are going to fight them all the way.”

Join the campaign now by visiting www.savecharingcross.com.