The council has fought the cuts to the region’s A&E and other hospital services since they were announced in July 2012.
Two A&Es at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex hospitals have already been closed, along with paediatric and maternity services at Ealing Hospital. The axe is now hanging over Ealing and Charing Cross A&Es and acute care services. If approved, the plans to downgrade services are expected to cost £500million to implement, and will result in 500 hospital beds being cut.
Councillor Binda Rai, cabinet member for health and adults’ services, said: “Instead of spending half a billion pounds to close our hospital services, why not show us the money and protect local health services.
“We know that our much-loved NHS has been under considerable financial strain and I don’t believe these plans would have even been considered if it wasn’t for the government’s austerity cuts. NHS statistics show that A&Es in this area are buckling under the pressure of increasing demand and over the winter persistently had some of the worst waiting times in country. We would be happy to meet with ministers and tell them where any new money could be spent more effectively to meet local needs.
“Good social care and public health services are essential, they help people live healthier lives, stay out of hospital and live in their own homes for as long they can. Both have seen their funding slashed to the bone over the past eight years, when we are being asked to deliver them through a more integrated approach. We have to recognise that unless there is a serious and genuine effort to reverse the impact of these cuts on both health and social care, the NHS will continue to struggle.”
Last year a report on London’s STPs by the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust found that the capital needs 1,700 extra acute beds by 2021 to cope with increased demand, yet in north west London the NHS plan is to cut bed numbers. The council is concerned that local people will be forced to travel further with longer ambulance journey times and longer waits in A&Es, which could make medical outcomes worse for local people.
Councillor Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council, said: “Nine out of 10 local people have said they don’t agree with plans that will leave Ealing hospital with no blue-light ambulances, critical care; surgery and specialist consultant-managed A&Es. Only urgent care centres would be left to treat cuts and bruises at these hospitals.
“For the past six years, we have been banging on the door of the department of health to speak up for local people and our health services.
“In the last week, Steve Barclay, Minister of State for Health has responded to my most recent letter. In it he confirmed that ‘significant’ hospital bed closures in this area are still on the table. If these plans are approved, I believe that Jeremy Hunt’s promise made in parliament in 2013 that Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals would keep their A&Es will have been broken. Funding for this cuts programme is not yet in place. This means, it is not too late for the government to scrap these barmy plans and give our local hospitals the investment they so desperately need. Now that really would be a NHS birthday present for Ealing that is long overdue.”