Confusion over Council Announcement on Local Hospitals

Claims Charing Cross will be "saved" but silence on future of Hammersmith

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There is confusion today over the future of Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals, following an announcement by Hammersmith and Fulham Council that Charing Cross is to be "saved" with new investment of £90 million.

The council however, has said nothing about the future of Hammersmith Hospital. Both hospitals were due to have their A & E departments closed and facilities downgraded to Urgent Care Centres in proposals put forward by NHS North West London.

According to the Evening Standard, the council's announcement was made after a "discussion about proposed recommendations" with NHS bosses, though the NHS are saying the meeting was private and no announcement will be made until February 19.

Now the council is claiming local campaigns by itself and by local people have secured a "major U-turn" and saved Charing Cross from "virtual closure".

However, the proposals announced by the council fall short of demands by local campaigners to keep hospital facilities fully open, and as the council says itself are identical to the solution put forward tor Lewisham Hospital, which has widely been described as a "fudge".

Under the proposals, Charing Cross would be demolished and rebuilt. The council says that the newly rebuilt hospital will be four times larger than the original plans to demote it, but the exact proposed size of the new building remains unclear.

And while the council says that, as with Lewisham Hospital, Charing Cross will retain a 24/7 emergency facility with ability to admit patients, it also says the most complicated emergencies, including blue light emergencies, will go to other specialist centres.

The council, which is now calling for a change in Trust ownership of the site, says Charing Cross will also become a specialist centre for community service,s which means that the many thousands of older and chronically ill patients, who need regular visits to hospital, will have less far to travel.

This, says the council, 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.

Councillor Marcus Ginn, Cabinet Member for health and social care at H&F Council, says: " Accepting no change and burying our heads in the sand would have resulted in the worst possible outcome with Charing Cross effectively closed.

"What we now have is a fully functioning hospital where the vast majority of people who go to the current A&E under their own steam will continue to be seen, while the hospital will continue to retain specialism services, will have teaching status and will continue to offer cancer care."

However, Chelsea and Fulham MP Greg Hands was more cautious saying: " This is definitely a step in the right direction compared with what was originally proposed, " but adding,
" we need to see more details and compare this new plan not just with the worst case scenario but also with the status quo."

Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter, who has led the residents' campaign to save our local A&Es, accused the council of betrayal and making a political deal.

He said: " Charing Cross is a major teaching hospital with 500 in-patient beds and a blue light A&E department.

" Under this political deal the Tories hope to save face by replacing it with a cottage hospital with 60 beds and a clinic. Neither the local campaigners nor the NHS knew anything about this last night.

" We needed the support of the Tory council to refer the decision on closures for independent review. Now they have betrayed their promise to do this, the future of not just Charing Cross but the other three threatened hospitals – Hammersmith, Ealing and Central Mid – looks bleak.

A spokesman for Save Hammersmith & Fulham hospitals said: " We will continue to campaign for the preservation of full A&E services at both Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals."

Campaigners are planning a Week of action from February 9 to 16, culminating in a rally in Lyric Square followed by a benefit gig at the Distillers pub in Fulham Palace Road.

Hammersmith and Fulham residents will join campaigners from across London in the Week of Action, ahead of February 19, when NHS North West London will make its final recommendations.

The campaign says an unprecedented coalition of London residents, medical staff, trade unions and health campaigners has come together to raise the alarm regarding the biggest threats to A & E's, maternity units and in-hospital care for a generation.

In our borough, NHS plans are to close the A & E units at Hammersmith and Charing Cross Hospitals and to reduce other services.

The week will include protests, pickets, rallies, demonstrations, candle lit vigils, musical events and more. In West London, there will also be vigils outside Ealing and Central Middlesex Hospitals and a march from Kingston Hospital.

Campaigners in South East London, meanwhile are fighting to save Lewisham Hospital's new A&E and maternity units in order to meet the debts of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust

Save Our Hospitals says the NHS plans for A&E closures at Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Ealing and Central Middlesex hospitals follow a botched three-month consultation exercise that was heavily slanted in favour of the commissioners' five 'preferred' hospitals: Chelsea & Westminster, St Mary's, Hillingdon, West Middlesex and Northwick Park.

In some areas the axed A&Es will be replaced by Urgent Care Centres – GP-run walk-in clinics able to treat only a limited number of minor conditions. In other areas, hospitals in adjacent boroughs will be expected to take up the slack. I our area that means Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in Chelsea and West Middlesex Hospital in Isleworth.

Here is the programme of local events during the Week of Action, with local residents urged to come along and take part.

February 9 - Vigil outside Ealing Hospital organised by the Save Our Hospitals Ealing campaign, 5pm–6.30pm. Vigil outside Central Middlesex Hospital, organised by Campaign to Defend Brent's Health Services, 5pm-6.30pm.

February 11 - Defend London's NHS Press Conference Jubilee Room, House of Commons, 10-11.45am.

February 14 - Save Our Hospitals Ealing campaigners will deliver a novelty Valentine’s card with the inscription ‘We Love our A&Es' to NW London NHS.

16 February 2013 – Demonstration and march from Kingston Hospital to Kingston Guildhall, 12-2pm.

Save Our Hospitals Hammersmith & Fulham rally, Lyric Square, King Street, Hammersmith 12-2pm. Followed by a benefit gig at The Distillers, Hammersmith – doors open at 7pm.

Local residents are also invited to come along and join candlelit vigils outside Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals, taking place every Sunday from 5pm - 6pm.

Local feelings about the plans has been running high for months, with two ongoing campaigns against the proposals.

Save Our Hospitals is run by a group of local people along with MP Andy Slaughter. You can find out more about the Save our Hospitals and offers your support at the website  and follow it on twitter, hashtag #Saveourhospitals.

You can read more about Hammersmith and Fulham Council's opposition to the plans on its website at Save Charing Cross Hospital and Save Hammersmith Hospital.

February 10, 2013