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Council bosses say they're being kept in dark over hospital merger plans

Plans to see Chelsea & Westminster Hospital take over the running of West Middlesex could be a reality by September, but Hammersmith & Fulham Council say not enough is known about the financial impact

West Middlesex Hospital, in Isleworth

Health bosses have been quizzed on a contentious plan to ‘merge’ two hospitals.

The Chelsea & Westminster Hospital Foundation Trust (CWHFT) was questioned by Hammersmith & Fulham’s health scrutiny panel over its plans to take over the running of West Middlesex Hospital in Isleworth.

However, the trust came in for criticism following the meeting, with the council’s head of health and adult care Vivienne Lukey saying it failed to allay the concerns of the committee of the financial viability of the deal raised at a previous meeting.

She said: "This merger was financially-motivated, yet for a second time the trust has failed to provide us the business case to justify their decision.

"How can we give these proposals proper scrutiny on the behalf of the thousands of people who stand to be affected by any possible changes to services, if we don’t have the figures to do so?

"Given Shaping A Healthier Future has ignored public opinion to date, people are understandably sceptical about how this merger could affect them, none of which is helped by the clandestine nature in which it was conceived.

"So we still have very real concerns over the implications for local services, particularly about the potential effects on the A&E and paediatric units."

CWHFT chief executive Libby McManus told the committee it was hoped the merger would be given final sign-off by the Secretary of State in August and be in place from September 1 this year. She also explained that board members had signed confidentiality clauses preventing them from disclosing the financial details of the merger.

She said: “The decision we have taken I think represents the best for both organisations over time. By coming together as a unified, single organisation there will be more scope to innovate. We both [hospitals] stand the risk of potentially losing services if we don’t do this.”

Conservative councillor Andrew Brown, who is a member of the committee, felt the Labour administration had taken its eye off the ball on this issue. He said afterwards: “It’s fair to say we are still very unclear on the financial aspect of this merger and, in my mind, the primary reason is a financial one.

“I’m sure this merger will benefit the residents served by West Middlesex as it’s in a serious financial situation. But my concern is the impact on residents in Hammersmith & Fulham.”

He said cabinet members should have been aware of the issue earlier and said: “They should be having regular conversations with all NHS providers and that includes Chelsea and Westminster which is a significant major hospital. It’s clear they have dropped the ball.”

At the end of the discussion members were invited to meet separately with the CWHFT’s chief financial officer to review the business case.

A spokesman for CWFHT said the purpose of it attending the meeting was to help the committee understand both the rationale and aim of the proposed acquisition.

He said: “The trust fully recognises that some of the committee members would like to see more financial detail and has offered to spend time going through more detailed financial information in the near future.

“The detail of the full business case is subject to a confidentiality agreement and we were therefore unable to share in the way that committee members requested.”

He said the acquisition process, which is still subject to several approvals, was well under way, with clinical teams from both hospitals working together to define how all aspects of patient care will best be provided in the future.

The meeting between the CWHFT and the council’s Health, Adult Social Care and Social Inclusion Policy and Accountability Committee was held at Hammersmith Town Hall on July 7, and followed a public meeting in June.

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