Have Your Say on the Future of Local Hospitals

Imperial Trust seeks local views on controversial NHS reforms


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Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust is to consult the local community again on controversial new plans for hospital reforms in the area.

Imperial's Finance Director Bill Shields recently told residents of North-West London that he expects a "significant reduction in [healthcare] resources now and in the future". Shields has also stressed the necessity of further cuts to local healthcare services.

A meeting with the Trust, the last of three 'public consultations', is planned for the 16th January 2014 at the Kensington Hilton on Praed Street. Imperial urges local residents to come and share their views on proposals set out in the Trust's consultation document Working in Partnership. There is also an 'online response form' to complete on the Imperial web site: both of these documents can be viewed by accessing this link. www.imperial.nhs.uk/foundation-trust

The Imperial Trust have held 2 local meetings already, on 11th December and 17th December. These consultations have taken inspiration from the ideas contained in Shaping a Healthier Future, the controversial pathway document produced for NHS North-West London which proposed the downgrading of Charing Cross Hospital and the closure of 4 out of 9 Accident and Emergency departments in North-West London, including those at Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals. These closures are the focus of an ongoing campaign by local groups.

At the meeting on 17th December, held within Hammersmith Hospital, Finance Director Bill Shields pointed to the likelihood of substantial cuts in local NHS spending. When questioned, by members of the Save Our Hospitals campaign, Mr. Shields said: "We [Imperial] have to be realistic...we expect a reduction of 4 - 5% per annum in the next few years...There comes a point where we can't be more efficient."

One possible revenue stream the Imperial Trust is considering is an expansion of its private patient LindoWing, which is currently at full capacity. According to Shields, such proposals would have to be considered because "if the funding is not going to increase [then] we need to generate income".

Shields also pointed to a significant downgrading of Charing Cross Hospital. Under the new plans, the hospital will not have an emergency consultant: all "significant emergencies" will be handled at St. Mary's. In addition, the selling-off parts of Charing Cross has not been ruled out as an option; Shields admits that the Trust are "not certain" of the future of the hospital's main building, adding that a "number of options" were being considered. He estimated that a sale would raise around £80 million.

St Mary's anticipate a 40% increase in A&E attendances if Charing Cross closes. Should this happen, Shields says that the Imperial Trust would build a significantly larger casualty unit at St. Mary's to handle some of the extra demand.

The Imperial College Healthcare Trust at present runs five major hospitals servicing North-West London: Charing Cross, Hammersmith, St Mary's Paddington, Queen Charlotte maternity, and the Western Eye Hospitals. The Trust is seeking to gain 'Foundation Status' from NHS regulators, which would enable it to achieve managerial and financial independence from central NHS control. Such a status would also allow it to undertake re-development and modernisation plans on existing hospital sites. However, any Foundation Trust would need to show regulators that they are 'locally representative', explaining the Imperial Trust's public consultation initiative.

The Trust has not committed itself to any further public consultations, and hospital campaigners say the January 16th meeting could be the last chance to have the voice of the public heard on hospital reform.

Joe Kelly

January 4, 2014

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