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Monday, 8 July 2013

Liberal Democrats give evidence to Independent Hospital Reconfiguration Panel

As many of you are aware it is possible that four local hospitals may have their A&E and their maternity wards shut. The hospitals at risk are Ealing, Charing Cross, Hammersmith and Central Middlesex.

Ealing Council with the support of the Liberal Democrat Group arranged for an independent review to take place so that our hospitals can be protected. Hanwell's Liberal Democrat Councillor, Nigel Bakhai, spoke up at the meeting which took place on 8th July in Ealing Town Hall.

I attended this crucial meeting where the independent panel will take evidence on why the current plans will leave Ealing's heathcare in tatters. Councillors from all three of Ealing political parties spoke including Nigel Bakhai, councillor for Elthorne.

Me speaking a hospital rally
It appears that their report will be written by 13th September and then a month later the Secretary of State will make a decision on the Panel's recommendations. The team giving evidence also included a member of the public.

There was no meaningful engagement of the proposals by the NHS North West group during the process. The consultation did not actively look to involve the diverse range of languages and community groups. The consultation form was so long that it made War and Peace look like a short story. The changes have been foisted upon us as a fait accompli.

We heard evidence about the huge numbers of residents who took part in two local marches, the tens of thousand people who filled in petitions. I was lucky enough to speak on Ealing Common to the crowd of residents who want their NHS services protected not downgraded.

Councillor Nigel Bakhai spoke about the lack of support from doctors and consultants for the plans to shut local maternity and Accident & Emergency services. Nigel added that surveys of local GPs did not agree with the proposals - which was a critical test set by Secretary of State.

The Ealing area is so diverse, with lots of people with diabetes (like myself). The high demand for A&E services during this hot weather showed that we need our A&E services kept local. We have a large increase in the birth rate and so the planned maternity closures do not make sense.

Travelling further for treatment will mean people become more ill or will die. We heard one person give evidence about a 37% increase in death due to extra travelling.

People travelling to the hospital for treatment are likely to need at least two buses plus a walk. The estimates for a small 10% increase in journey time assumes that people all drive! I have said many times that part of a good treatment is to have your family or friends with you so you can recover more quickly. If I had to wait for visitors getting two buses and a long walk then I think most people would not be able to visit as often.

With Nigel Bakhai campaigning in Hanwell
We saw that the authors of the NHS proposals used different sources of data when it was clear that some examples gave some strange outcomes...

...for Hammersmith hospital it stated that 7 patients would use each bed, each day! How can we trust the data never mind their projections based upon quicksand.

Since the news that Ealing Hospital was due to be downgraded they were forced to advertise to state they were "open for business"!

Part of their plans also involve huge number of patients having treatments from their GPs who cannot currently cope with their numbers. No plans have been arrange to assist any changeover to a new way of working and so quite simply the plans are unsafe.

To sum it up the plans are unsafe. At the same time the Government is reviewing health care such as hospitals and so the plans to shut our maternity and Accident & Emergency wards should be shelved until the Government review has been concluded.

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