The A&E units (and other services) in the four hospitals local to me in West London are threatened with closure. An independent panel is currently reviewing the NHS’s decision and will report to the Secretary of State for Health by September 2013.
I feel strongly that the proposed closures will put lives at risk. Here is the letter that I have submitted to the review – please join me in objecting by emailing your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
To: The Independent Reconfiguration Panel, 6th floor, 157-197 Buckingham Palace Road, London
I would like to register my objection to the current proposals to close the accident and emergency units at Hammersmith, Charing Cross, Ealing and Central Middlesex Hospitals and ask you to reject the proposed closure.
My initial concerns about the proposals related to the impact it would have on myself and family. Closing these A&E units will mean that our nearest emergency unit will be in St Mary’s, Paddington, which is at least 30 minutes drive away – and longer during heavy traffic. Should anyone in my house suffer from a suspected stroke or heart attack, where time is of an essence, then this delay in reaching hospital could have fatal consequences.
In the last few months however, I have been going door-to-door, taking to many local residents across Hammersmith and Fulham and Ealing and Acton about the proposals. The stories I have heard have persuaded me even further that the planned closures will put unnecessary worry and pressure on local residents, put the remaining services under undue strain and put lives at risk. In particular, it has been the poorest and most vulnerable residents – those with sick or disabled children and the elderly – who are most worried about the plans. For instance, I met one elderly woman who faces three bus-rides to get to the nearest A&E unit. As her nearest A&E and GP surgery are already working beyond capacity and therefore cannot offer regular appointments to her, she is currently relying on her local vet to change the dressings on a wound she recently sustained. This is a shameful story of the NHS in the 21st Century but is sadly only likely to be replicated if the proposed closures go ahead – three whole London Boroughs will be left without a major hospital.
Finally, I understand that a number of clinical arguments have been put forward in support of the proposed closures. While I appreciate that access to specialists is an important factor in the quality of emergency treatment, I am confident that you will agree that access to specialists must be balanced out with access to resources overall – and in a timely fashion. The current A&E services are stretched, with waiting times already on the increase. It seems difficult to argue that this can be anything but worsened by closing further units, not to mention the additional pressure that will be put on the ambulance services. Furthermore, if there are strong clinical arguments, I hope that you will question the clinicians as to why these proposals were not put forward prior to 2010, when there was significant investment in the NHS. The coincidence of these clinical arguments with the desire to dramatically reduce costs undermines their credibility.
Far from being in the clinical interests of the West London population, the current proposals represent a significant downgrade in health services to the area, put forward in light of a desperate desire to cut costs quickly. They are proposals that have little support in the community and which will put lives at risk. They should therefore be firmly rejected.