Ealing Council has hit out at a NHS decision to close four A&E departments in the area and to downgrade other hospital services.
The controversial plans were approved at a NHS board meeting in central London today (19 February), despite fierce opposition by doctors, local people and the council.
The hospitals losing their A&E departments (Ealing, Central Middlesex, Charing Cross and Hammersmith) will only have urgent care centres, meaning hundreds of patients with life-threating illnesses and injuries will be forced to travel further for emergency care.
The decision will see emergency health service for 1.9 million Londoners almost halved, with only five major hospitals remaining, including, Chelsea and Westminster, Hillingdon, Northwick Park, St Mary’s and West Middlesex.
Ahead of the meeting, NHS bosses announced alternative proposals for Charing Cross and Ealing hospitals that promises more investment in the sites for primary care but admitted that this additional funding would need to be recouped from unidentified savings. The revised plans also confirmed some services that were not in the ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ consultation will be based at these two hospitals.
The NHS’s decision will be reviewed by Ealing Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee on 4 March. Scrutiny councillors might then vote to refer the plans to the secretary of state for health who would then order an independent panel investigation before making a decision.
Councillor Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council, said: “Despite the spin in the last couple of weeks implying hospital services have been saved, the people of this borough will not be hoodwinked.
“If you can’t be taken to hospital in a blue light ambulance then there is no emergency service and if you can’t have a baby on-site then it doesn’t have a maternity unit.
“These 11th-hour concessions are simply not good enough. We are worried about the ability of the remaining hospitals to cope with the extra demand, the scale and speed of these plans and if they are safe or in the best interests of local people.
“Following today’s decision, we are looking at all the options open to us to fight these plans and save our hospitals, including referring it to the secretary of state and challenging it through a judicial review.”
All political parties on the council are against the proposals.