|Council Votes To Refer A&E Closures|
And plans underway for mass protest on Sunday 27th April
Ealing Council has voted unanimously to refer a decision to close A&E departments in north-west London to an independent panel.
The move would shut the A&E units in Ealing, Charing Cross, Central Middlesex, and Hammersmith hospitals leaving three London boroughs, with a total population the size of Leeds, without a major hospital.
NHS North West London has said the changes would save money and improve care.
Once the units are downgraded, more serious emergencies would be referred to A&Es at Hillingdon, Northwick Park, West Middlesex, Chelsea and Westminster or St Mary's hospitals.
NHS representatives were given the opportunity to address the meeting, setting out their views on why they thought the plans would meet local health needs and to ask councillors not to refer this decision to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
But, councillors are angry that the NHS bosses are pushing through the plans to downgrade hospital services, claiming that they would be made at a scale and speed never tested before, reliant on improvements in primary care that have not yet been achieved and without robust evidence they are safe or will deliver equal treatment to all Londoners in the region.
Speaking at Ealing Council's Health Scrutiny Committee, Councillor David Millican, Ealing Conservative Group Leader said:
"I told last night's meeting that I did not believe that the changes proposed to close four A&Es, including at Ealing and Charing Cross Hospitals, meet the four tests set down by the Secretary of State for Health.
Ealing Council's leader Councillor Julian Bell said:
"The council's referral will mean that these plans will now be examined by an independent panel appointed by the government.
"As the plans do not meet the four basic tests set before hospital services can be reconfigured we believe Jeremy Hunt will have no choice but to overturn the NHS decision.
"It is important that we continue to show our opposition and so we are planning a protest march and rally in Ealing on Saturday 27 April. I want to encourage people across the region to come and join us. Even if their hospital isn't affected they need to consider what it will be like when more people are waiting for vital emergency treatment in fewer hospitals."
NHS North West London has responded:
'' Ealing Council has asked the Secretary of State for Health to consider the programme. This is a shame, as this process normally takes a few months and will delay implementation of much needed improvements to local services which the majority of clinicians, local GPs and other local councils want to see go ahead.
''However, the NHS will continue what planning it can and remains committed to working with Ealing Council and further developing its local community health strategies, of which Ealing Hospital will be a critical part.''
5th March 2013