Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State who was found by the High Court to be acting illegally in his attempt to close Lewisham Hospital yesterday, has responded to the finding by amending the hospital closure programme. The A&E Department at Charing Cross is now apparently saved "for the time being" (along with Ealing) while the same department in White City at Hammersmith is set for closure.
Mr Hunt, who made a whole speech without once mentioning the words "Lewisham" or "Court", presented this new closure programme as being based on the advice of clinicians. Which is odd because the same "clinicians" aka NHS burocrats were the ones recommending Charing Cross lose its' A&E, supported by our Council.
Andy Slaughter rose to ask a question a few minutes ago and was interrupted by the Speaker when he apparently started to lose control in his anger. Demanding to know where the 500 beds set to be stripped from Charing Cross would go, why the Secretary of State saw fit to remove an A&E from White City, which has some of the poorest health statistics in London, and when he was going to come clean about the whole details of the plan. Answer there came none, simply a condescending reply from Mr Hunt that he was following advice.
The reprieve for the A&E at Charing Cross is welcome, however, and this is a very significant change from what was proposed. Our Council will now struggle to justify how they supported this, only for it to be reversed as a result of local pressure from the community - not from them. It will also be interesting to see where that campaign, the Save our Hospitals group, go from here.
Andy Slaughter has released a statement through the Save our Hospitals campaign:
"Pressure from the Save Our Hospitals campaign and the tens of thousands of local residents who protested at the closures has won a concession. The local NHS and the Conservatives in Hammersmith & Fulham were happy with a GP-run ‘urgent care centre’ at Charing Cross, now we are told there will be an A&E there and in Ealing.Not to be out-done the Leader of H&F Council, who supported the original proposals, now claims it was all part of a cunning plan. Here's Cllr Nick Botterill:
‘But I don’t trust the Tories to deliver on this. The promised A&E may turn out to be just a minor injuries unit. And the rest of the terrible cuts in our local hospitals are going ahead.
‘There will be no A&E at Hammersmith Hospital in one of the most deprived areas of London and there are no promises to keep the beds and services at Charing Cross open. We will continue to fight these closures until we have a council and a government that will listen to local people and keep our excellent hospitals open."
"Plans to reform health services, announced by the Secretary of State today, are supported by clinicians and by local GPs. What we will now have is a 21st century hospital at Charing Cross continuing to treat the vast majority of our borough residents.
"H&F Council has worked hard and lobbied intensively over the past months to persuade the health authorities that these proposals, together with a retained A&E, would be in the best interests of the area. They are a vast improvement on the original proposals."