To start with a question… who was it who said:
“I think of the emergency nurse practitioner in Surrey, still in his overalls, telling me that closing A&E means an hour long drive to hospital for some people, and potentially lives lost”?
It was a pre-prime ministerial David Cameron in 2007. In Ealing this prediction is becoming a reality. Four of our A&E units have either been closed or are closing. Charing Cross hospital has numerous specialisms, but 55% of the site has been earmarked for luxury housing—you couldn’t make it up. Both Hammersmith and Central Middlesex hospitals’ A&Es have already shut their doors, although Central Middlesex’s was a brand-new, well-rated facility. People are being diverted to Northwick Park, miles away from and rated by the Government’s own Care Quality Commission as a failing hospital.
The Government claim that these units have been saved, but their replacement—urgent care centres—cannot be used for emergencies, are staffed by general practitioners rather than consultants, and do not take ambulances. In short, they are not A&Es. I remember Ealing hospital being launched in 1979. This month it lost its maternity services—in the London borough of the 33. People see that as a precursor of things to come to its A&E.
In a time of austerity many Ealing Gazette readers will be baffled at the fact that NHS North West London has found £33 million in two years to pay consultants. It has spent £13.2 million so far this year alone, including on Saatchi and Saatchi and McKinsey, through its programme “Shaping a healthier future”, which the locals see as “justifying the closure of hospitals.” I raised these points in the House of Commons the other day. Throughout the debate Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt looked on.
The famously airbrushed poster from 2010 that proclaimed, “I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS”. In west London, that does not ring true. Ealing used to be known for comedy, but what has happened to our NHS locally has gone beyond a joke.