Row Over Meeting On Future Of Local Hospitals

Labour and Conservatives clash over Charing Cross

 Lively Public Meeting On Future Of Local Hospitals

Cllr Peter Thompson


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Labour and the Conservatives have clashed over a public meeting held in Chiswick last weekend to discuss the future of Charing Cross Hospital emergency care.

Labour has complained that none of the nine local councillors turned up to the meeting in the George IV (17th May) while the Conservatives have accused Labour of "a torrent of inaccurate scaremongering".

Crispin Flintoff who is standing for the Labour Party in Thursday's local elections said that no Conservative councillors attended and they were out canvassing in Hounslow while the meeting was going on.

He said he wanted know why the councillors didn't turn up for a debate on "the most important issue facing residents".

Crispin Flintoff

The meeting was organised by the Save Our Hospitals campaign group. The Green Party sent representatives while the Liberal Democrats issued a statement but did not attend. The UKIP representative who is running for election in Riverside ward, Simon Mabbutt, also attended.

In a statement local Conservatives complained that there had only been a few weeks notice given for a meeting being held the weekend before the local elections. They said it was the first time that the hospital campaign group had engaged with local councillors and the organisers had been unable to provide them with reassurances about the format of the meeting.

The leader of the Conservatives on Hounslow Council, Cllr Peter Thompson has issued a statement on his party's position on the future of Charing Cross hospital:

"Local Conservatives have always believed that closing A&Es could leave large numbers of residents in West London dangerously far away from emergency care. With thousands of new homes and jobs coming to the area, we need more local capacity, not less. Your local Conservative Councillors passed a motion making these points at the Chiswick Area Forum in October 2012 and this was covered on the ChiswickW4 website under the headline “Chiswick Councillors Call For Fight To Save Local Hospitals”

"Last September there was a motion at borough council proposed by Ruth Cadbury who was busy trying to get herself selected as the Labour Party parliamentary candidate. Now Labour were expressing their great concern at the close of A & E (even though our Labour Council has supported this option), talking about plans to demolish Charing Cross (never an option) and speaking of the wonderful work of Ealing Council (Labour) and ignored the tremendous campaign run by Hammersmith and Fulham (Conservative!)

"Given the deceptive, hypocritical and partisan nature of this motion we voted against it. Labour was clearly playing politics with our health service and we weren’t going to play ball. The threat that we faced last year to drastically downgrade the Charing Cross Hospital was lifted this year.

"It is now proposed that £90 million will be spent on Charing Cross to create a world-class centre for elective (non-emergency) surgery and that the A&E will be retained as a local A&E which will continue to treat the overwhelming majority of current cases. The revised NHS proposals will mean at least 85% of patients at the hospital will continue to be treated there. The changes proposed under these plans will, the clinicians tell us, save at least 130 lives per year as they localise routine medical care to provide better access closer to home and centralise the most specialist services to provide better clinical outcomes and safer services for patients.

"Even though these changes are supported by clinicians and by local GPs we recognise that some local people feel anxious about the changes. Local residents however certainly deserve better than the falsehoods and fear on the future of Charing Cross that is being spread by the Labour Party.

"We all accepted from the beginning that the NHS had to modernise. Accepting no change and burying our heads in the sand would have resulted in the worst possible outcome with Charing Cross effectively closed. What we now have is a fully functioning hospital where the vast majority of people who go to the current A&E under their own steam will continue to be seen, while the hospital will continue to retain specialism services, will have teaching status and will continue to offer cancer care."

The three Green candidates for the Chiswick and Riverside ward, Rachhpaul Bedi, Daniel Goldsmith and Diane Scott attended the meeting.

Rachhpaul Bedi and Simon Mabbutt

Rachhpaul Bedi told the audience that the NHS belonged to everyone and that he was strongly opposed to plans to weaken it, including the cuts to the Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals.

He linked the closure to plans to reform the NHS with greater Internal markets that were originally introduced by Margaret Thatcher and continued under Tony Blair.  He believed that the workers of the NHS had excellent ideas for improvement but these were ignored by management.

In response to a question about more privatisation Rachhpaul said; "A Push Strategy is being used now to pass the buck. The Pull Strategy is not to find options but answers; what is wrong, let us fix it collectively. Money is spent by management on themselves and not on patients and that has to be stopped."

Mr. Bedi said that Labour "are equally responsible for what Tony Blair did and that they cannot divorce themselves from it, no matter how hard they try."

The panel faced some tough questions from the audience with Simon Mabbutt being asked about UKIP policy to privatise the NHS and where the workers would come from if immigration restrictions were toughened.

According to Crispin Flintoff: "People in Chiswick and across Hounslow will suffer as a result of these proposals. The waiting time at A&Es is already over six hours on most days. With no consultants in A&Es in Hammersmith, Ealing or Charing Cross, there will be a horrendous queue at West Middlesex. West Middlesex does not have adequate transport facilities so it is likely to take Chiswick residents over an hour to get there.

"No one voted for four A&Es in North West London to be downgraded to centres run by GPs.

"Will Peter Thompson and his colleagues support A NEW CONSULTATION on these proposals seeing as the last one was such a sham (by his own admission)?"

May 21, 2014

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