"Charing Cross Hospital Has Not Been Saved"

Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter accuses council of "double betrayal"

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Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter has accused Hammersmith annd Fulham Council of speading false rumours that Charing Cross Hospital has been "saved" and described the council's claim as a "double betrayal".

The MP has issued this statement in response to the council's announcement:

In a disgraceful act of betrayal Hammersmith & Fulham Council has accepted the closure of Charing Cross Hospital and the other three threatened A&E departments in west London. But rather than tell residents the truth, last night they launched a cynical publicity campaign claiming the hospital had been 'saved'.

I have spent today unravelling the lie, in conversations with local campaigners, the NHS and people who attended last night's Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting - the source of the false rumours. The facts are:

Charing Cross A&E will close and be replaced by an 'urgent care centre' as planned by NHS North West London - the proposal we have been fighting for six months. The formal decision will be taken on 19 February. The Council jumped the gun to get its fictional narrative out first.

The unit will be staffed by GPs, there will no blue light ambulance service. If you have a stroke outside Charing Cross you will be taken to St Mary's Paddington or Chelsea & Westminster.

The current 500 beds and all specialist acute services will go. There will be up to 60 new beds that GPs can use for minor medical conditions.

The will be no acute services at all, only primary - that is GP and nursing - care, on 20% of the current floorspace.

A major teaching and acute service hospital will be reduced to the size and function of a cottage hospital and local clinic.

The promised £20-30 million for new primary care will be increased to £60-90m. A fraction of the money that will be raised by selling the site of the demolished hospital (about 60% of the total site). In return the Council has promised to support the plans.

A similar sweetener was offered to Ealing Council for the Ealing Hospital site. They have rejected it and will fight on to retain their health service.

Last night's meeting was a confidential briefing for the 11 affected councils - only H&F broke that confidence. Even today the NHS were saying no decision had been taken.

But the NHS did deny that Charing Cross would become a "Specialist Health and Social Care Hospital" as the Council claim. This was not an option consulted on, indeed it is a term unknown to the NHS who think the Council has invented it.

Why has the Council betrayed Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals?

To be honest the Council has always been lukewarm about our campaign, knowing that the real reason for the closures is the cuts imposed by central Government on the NHS. A Tory council like H&F, aggressive supporters of the other public sector cuts from welfare to police services, was never comfortable criticising a Tory-led Government.

The fig-leaf provided by the 'extra' money for primary care buildings is its excuse to withdraw from both legal action and the appeal of the decision to close the hospitals to the Secretary of State.

This is a double betrayal. Only councils have the means to pay for judicial review and the statutory right to refer a closure decision (which is then looked at by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel before final decision by the Government).

By pulling its support, H&F Council has left not just Charing Cross but all four hospitals high and dry.

The NHS told me today that H&F Council had made no representations at all on behalf of Hammersmith Hospital, and that they were now thinking of closing the urgent care centre there as well as the A&E. The White City health centre in Bloemfontein Road would then be designated the urgent care centre for the north of the borough.

I spoke to the leader of Ealing Council today who pledged his support both for the judicial review and the referral, but this stands less chance of success without H&F on board.

I also spoke to the MP leading the Lewisham hospital campaign. They have also been deceived into believing their A&E will stay open, while in fact it will be another urgent care centre with no ambulance cover. But Lewisham Council has already started its legal challenge of the Government's decision.

H&F Save our Hospitals campaigners knew nothing of the Council's betrayal and pledged today to fight on to save all the threatened hospitals. Join their vigils this weekend and the yric Square rally on 16 February.

With the support of Ealing Council, campaigners across London and every single H&F resident I believe we can still save our local hospitals. A few hours before our Conservative Council's betrayal last night, London MPs from all Parties debated A&E closures.

It was an impassioned debate, and my own contribution, made in ignorance of what was to come, is sadly still true.

We need to win this battle or face a second-rate, privatised and wholly inadequate health service.


Campaigners are holding a Week of action from this weekend till February 16, culminating in a rally in Lyric Square followed by a benefit gig at the Distillers pub in Fulham Palace Road. YOu can read the full details here.


February 10, 2013