|What Next for Save Our Hospital Campaign?
Campaigners believe better than even chance of overturning judge's decision
Ealing Council leader and campaign group have explained the next steps for Ealing residents following the unsuccessful ruling by the High Court judge for a Judicial Review. Some Ealing residents have mixed views on the decision.
Ealing Council Leader, Julian Bell, and Save Our Hospitals campaign organiser, Dr. Aysha Raza, discuss the next steps for the Ealing Hospital campaign, after the high court decision was made public on Tuesday 13th August.
Julian Bell says that he was ‘surprised and shocked': “I did not anticipate this. I thought we'd get our day in court and the Judicial Review would go ahead. We were struck down. It was a big surprise but we're confident that we can prevail.”
The judicial review
Ealing Council is contesting the ‘Shaping a Healthier Future' NHS proposed plans in summer 2013 , which sees four out of nine West London A&E departments closing at Ealing, Charing Cross, Central Middlesex and Hammersmith hospitals.
Ealing Council defended with a united two-pronged response. The first aspect questioned the legality of the proposed plans by seeking a judicial review at the high court – presenting a legal challenge against the reforms on the grounds of poor initial consultation levels and failure to meet BAME (Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic) equality requirements.
This is the ruling that has been overturned. Julian Bell says: “Chances are good of overturning it. They may be better that 50 – 50. We are going to open court to challenge the decision.”
The focus now turns to the second line of defence based on the outcome of an Independent Review Panel report.
In May 2013, Ealing was granted a full review after the Council was referred from the Ealing Health and Adult Social Services Standing Scrutiny Panel. The IRP – whose panel members have expertise in clinical healthcare, NHS management and patient involvement – gives advice to Secretary of State for Health, Rt Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP, on contested health service proposals.
Julian Bell said Ealing residents can assist the council by getting involved with the IRP: “The IRP is most important. It is the process that holds out the greatest hope and opportunity for us to change the proposals. It's important that everybody write to the IRP and states their reasons why they're opposed to the proposals.”
This report is due to be sent on the 13th September, after which, Jeremy Hunt will have 40 days to make a decision.
In the media, the result made regional news in The Evening Standard and The Independent, and Councillor Bell appeared on ITV London and BBC London. Julian Bell said, "Only 11% of GPs supported the proposals."
In an interview on ITV London , Ealing GP and Medical Director for NHS North West London ‘Shaping a Healthier Future', Dr. Mark Spencer, said: “We're not talking about the downgrading of services, what we're doing is improving quality of care.”
Save Our Hospitals organiser, Dr. Aysha Raza, suggested that the exact opposite would happen: “We'll have a massive black hole with no health care services over Ealing. It doesn't make sense. We're building more several-storey high buildings for households. Surely all that population is going to need more dense medical services.”
Another argument in the media against the NHS reforms is the impact on increased ambulance travelling times. Dr. Spencer made claim to travel from Acton to St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington in 15 minutes. Julian Bell replied with: “That would be at 4.30 in the morning and driving a fast car. I think it would take half an hour at least.”
Out on the streets, Ealing residents had mixed reviews on the unsuccessful judicial review. Lee Noah, aged 39, says: “The case has been thrown out means it is a decision already vetoed by government. The government has set its mind on this policy and it's only a matter of time before it comes to light.
“The government want their private partnerships, so I don't think our say really matters.”
A female Ealing resident and social worker, aged 54, says that the Ealing Council has done really well:
“I was quite impressed with Julian Bell as he has instigated plans to review it as I wouldn't like to see the hospital close down. It's actually very worrying for all residents in the West London area.
“People should make a stand – when it's gone, it's gone and then it's too late.”
18 year old English A-level student Ahmed Jama is unsure: “I think it's possible to carry on with the campaign, but it depends on the outcome of the IRP report.
“School and politics shouldn't be kept separate because young people are eventually going to have to vote for stuff so they need to know about what's going on now.”
All three residents have not submitted their views to the IRP yet.
August 21, 2013