|Charing Cross Hospital: Saved|
NHS North West London (NHS NWL) will formally announce its plans for the future configuration of hospitals and A&E services in the area on Tuesday February 19 but ahead of that, the council has revealed that it has secured a major U-turn on proposals that would have seen the effective closure of Charing Cross Hospital.
Hammersmith Hospital in our part of the borough, however, is not mentioned once in the Council's euphoric press release announcing the breakthrough. Which it undoubtedly is for the people of Fulham, but it does rather appear as if the north of the borough - where life expectancy is up to eight years shorter - has lost out again.
Tonight (February 7) NHS NWL confirmed to North West London's Joint Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee that the previous proposal to designate Charing Cross a 'local hospital' has been ditched in favour of it being designated as a 'Specialist Health and Social Care' hospital with cancer and teaching specialisms retained.
Councillor Marcus Ginn, Cabinet Member for health and social care at H&F Council said:
"The massive opposition from local people to the original proposals has forced NHS managers to rethink their plans."
"The £90million cash injection now proposed by the NHS would secure the hospital's future for generations to come and the top priority was always to save Charing Cross and the services so many of our residents rely on.Under the original plans to demote Charing Cross to a 'local hospital' the footprint would have been reduced to 4,300 square metres. The new recommendation would mean that the newly rebuilt hospital is four times larger.
"In return, we have agreed to halt our legal challenge to the NHS proposals as all but the most complex emergencies will continue to be treated at Charing Cross. We believe that we have secured the best possible deal for our residents."
Charing Cross will now also become a specialist centre for community services which means that the many thousands of older and chronically ill patients, who need regular visits to hospital, will have less far to travel. It will mean local people will be better supported to live independently at home and will relieve some of the pressure on already over-stretched GP practices that downgrading Charing Cross would have caused.
This is a major victory for our Council - and I congratulate them. They genuinely seem to have pulled off something that appeared extremely unlikely and have done so just as the political unity that was a feature of the local opposition to the cuts had fractured. People from the north of the borough use the services there too so I am not being churlish in raising the white elephant in the room - which is Hammersmith Hospital.
Cllr Ginn in his quote tonight rather lets the cat out of the bag when he says quite openly: "the top priority was always to save Charing Cross".
I set out here back in June how the Council's campaign always gave me the impression of being more concerned with the fate of Charing Cross rather than Hammersmith Hospital, and I get the impression from talking to officials there this evening that they regard their campaign as essentially over. What remains to be seen is what the residents campaign now decide to do.
Stick, or twist?
2255 UPDATE - Wow. I think there may be a problem. I have just seen an exchange between the office of Andy Slaughter MP and the Business Director of NHS NW London,Lynne Spencer. As far as they are concerned, and I quote: "nothing has been decided." The decision, according to them, "has not been made".
A full answer will be forthcoming tomorrow, I understand.
0920 FRIDAY UPDATE - It gets curiouser. The residents campaign to save both hospitals is this morning smelling a very large rat. Not only does NHS NW London apparently say there is no deal, but the one being trumpeted by the Council, according to the campaigners involves cutting the 500 beds currently there to just 60. They allege the Council is putting spin before the facts, and vow not to be hoodwinked. Unraveling..
Meanwhile, the local Council-funded Chronicle are reporting that the campaign was "led by the Council", which ignores the fact that it wasn't, and simply announces that the hospital is "saved". No questions asked. Simples. Naffink to see 'ere Guv. Move along now.
By contrast even Conservative MP Greg Hands, who campaigned for Charing Cross to be closed in order to save neighbouring Chelsea & Westminster hospital, is less sure: