Lively Public Meeting On Future Of Local Hospitals

Highly charged atmosphere during discussion on emergency care


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Over 170 people including politicians and healthcare representatives attended a lively and at times highly-charged meeting on the future of local hospitals.

There was standing room only at the George IV pub in Chiswick at the meeting which took the format of the BBC 'Questions and Answers' programme and was organised by Crispin Flintoff, a Labour Party candidate in Homefields ward.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the future for emergency hospital care for local people following the controversial measures proposed by the NHS.

In attendance were Mary Macleod MP for Brentford & Isleworth, Andy Slaughter MP for Hammersmith, Dr Mark Spencer of NHS North West London, Murad Qureshi AM, Anne Drinkell (a community nurse)of Save Our Hospitals Campaign and Councillor Marcus Ginn (from Hammersmith and Fulham’s Conservative Group).

The Chair for the meeting was Torin Douglas MBE (former BBC media correspondent).

The panel were asked questions in a ‘Question Time’ format. Dr Mark Spencer began by describing the proposals in the ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ document which includes closing four of out the nine A&E departments in NHS North West London and focusing on more localised, community care. Dr Spencer explained that this was brought about by the need to adapt resources to a changing demographic.

The mood of the meeting was very hostile to the proposals, and there was a good deal of shouting and booing from the audiance but the meeting was held under control by Torin Douglas who said all sides had the right to hear their views without interruption.

Andy Slaughter MP suggested that the proposals were based on cutting costs and that patients would suffer as a result. Councillor Marcus Ginn countered that it was a matter of providing the best possible care and not spreading resources too thinly. Dr Spencer made the point that the proposals for change began under Labour when there was MORE money going into the NHS.

Concerns were raised about the viability of having a casualty department at Charing Cross Hospital that has no consultants on site. This also led to concerns that the journey time to the next hospital with consultants (St Mary’s in Paddington or West Middlesex) would be difficult for many patients.

It was reiterated that Charing Cross would retain its A&E though the stroke unit would move to St Mary's Paddington where it would ' co-locate' with the current trauma unit. The meeting was told that Charing Cross will have an Urgent Care centre that will see walk in cases and an A&E department that will still accept ambulances. If people were feeling unwell they will still be able to go to Charing Cross to be assessed. If they dial 999 they will be taken to the relevant Accident and Emergency at St Mary's or Chelsea and Westminster in an emergency.

Dr Mark Spencer said that this was the best move for the local A&Es and would in
fact save lives. He also said that currently there are very few blue light ambulances that actually go to Charing Cross Accident and Emergency, since the trauma unit was relocated at St Mary's Paddington.

Mary Macleod MP empathised with the local residents' concerns and said that this
transition would save lives. "It is my priority that healthcare remains available to all members of my constituency day to day and in an emergency."

There was a consensus across the panel that there was a lot of confusion about what the proposed changes to the NHS would mean and that more had to be done to clarify things for patients.

Talking about the meeting, Andy Slaughter said: ‘I was amazed at the complacency shown by the Conservative Party and NHS representatives, who seemed to believe that hospitals in west London could cope with half the numbers of A&Es – despite the current queues and the evidence from other areas where A&Es have closed."

Patrick Barr, Southfield Conservative candidate for Ealing Coucil 2014 and a former Charge Nurse at Charing Cross A&E, said that the decision by Minister Jeremy Hunt that Charing Cross would retain its A&E status was "a triumph for local residents" and the transition led by the Conservatives "will see the NHS into a new phase of its life."

February 20, 2014

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