MP Calls for Enquiry into "West London NHS Crisis"

As residents launch campaign to fight A&E closures

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After what he describes as "the third disaster in a week for health services in West London area", Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter today called for an independent inquiry into the crisis in the NHS in the area.

He says: "On July 2, the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts announced it was consulting on the closure of four of the area’s nine A&E departments and the consequent downgrading of hospitals.

" On 4 July, the decision to close one of the world’s top children’s heart surgery centres put the future of the Royal Brompton Hospital Trust in doubt.

" Now it has become clear that Imperial Healthcare Trust’s (IHT) mismanagement of patient records and referrals from GPs may have put patients' lives at risk."

Andy Slaughter adds: " I raised these issues with the Secretary of State in the House of Commons yesterday, and I have secured a 90 minute debate in Parliament next Wednesday. While he attempted to pass the buck, Andrew Lansley did concede that if local health authorities were getting decisions wrong he did have the powers to step in.

"That is what I am calling upon him to do now. The poor management and lack of scrutiny of west London’s NHS health services cannot be allowed to continue.

"These decisions on closure are being made by bodies which are to be abolished in six months – they are operating in a consequence-free environment.

"My constituents will suffer if they get these decisions wrong, but they have no accountability, and no incentive to get the decisions right.

“There is no adequate external scrutiny. The issue of patients not being given appointments for cancer and other serious conditions was first raised by me in February – it is only now being picked up by local council scrutiny committees, whose job it is to oversee the Health Service.

"I was horrified to hear the chair of Westminster Council’s scrutiny committee admit on the Today programme that she did not know the time limits that apply to cancer and other urgent referrals. If the scrutineers don’t understand the rules they are supposed to enforce, how can they protect the public?

"These are literally matters of life and death for my constituents and I they need to be properly investigated immediately. Whatever the reasons given for these closures and failings, the real cause is the need to cut budgets and the reorganisation forced on the NHS by government.

" £1.8bn of savings in health budgets are required in NW London alone, while Lansley’s reorganisations have left the NHS without adequate management or accountability. The government needs to take responsibility for the mess it has created.

" It is a disgrace that on the 64th anniversary of Labour’s founding of the NHS that there is such a crisis threatening health services in northwest London hundreds of local residents packed into Hammersmith's Rivercourt Methodist Church on Thursday evening, to discuss how to fight NHS plans to close A&E departments at Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospital."

At the meeting, local residents resolved:

  • To set up an organising committee to bring together all sections of the community
  • To make this a non-party political campaign, though members of the Labour, Lib Dem and Green Party have promised support and local Labour Councillors and Assembly Members spoke at the meeting
  • To seek the help of trades unions, professional bodies, clinicians and other experts
  • To meet with those proposing the closures
  • To oppose closures at all four west London hospitals, working with the Save Ealing NHS campaign
  • To build the broadest campaign across west London, including MPs, businesses, schools, local government, GLA/TfL and football clubs

The campaign also has its own twitter hashtag #SaveHFNHS."

Hammersmith and Fulham Council are also encouraging residents to make their views heard, and have produced two campaign pages with their own petititons at Save Charing Cross and Save Hammersmith.

July 6, 2012