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Ealing and Charing Cross Hospitals: NHS plays down closure threat as councils launch petition to 'save' services from downgrading

Hammersmith and Fulham and Ealing Councils say Shaping a Healthier Future (SaHF) plans are "reckless" and must be stopped

The NHS has told patients that Ealing Hospital is not closing after a petition was launched by two west London councils to halt its partial closure.

Health bosses moved to reassure residents on Friday (August 11) that they should carry on using services as normal amid NHS research that suggested many residents were concerned that the hospital was to shut.

The reassurance was issued after Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham Councils started a Save Our Hospitals petition "to halt the partial closure" of Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals.

They claimed under the "Shaping a Healthier Future (SaHF)" proposals, the two hospitals, in Southall and Hammersmith, will be downgraded to “local” hospitals, with a wide range of services closing including existing blue-light A&E services and more than 500 beds.

But chief executive of London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, Jacqueline Docherty, said: “I want to reassure local residents that they can continue to use services at Ealing Hospital as normal.

“Over the next few years we will be looking at where we can best provide services, including GP practices, the community and hospital. New services will also be developed and some existing services will change.”

SaHF has already resulted in the closure of A&E units at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex Hospitals , and the closure of the paediatric and maternity units at Ealing.

The SaHF plan has faced intense criticism, with an Independent Healthcare Commission report, led by Michael Mansfield QC, calling it “deeply flawed” and for its “immediate halt” .

A banner outside Ealing Hospital during a demonstration last year

The NHS has argued that the plans have resulted in improvements to the services offered to patients.

But the Labour-run councils say SaHF proposals will lead to no critical care, acute beds, blue-light ambulances, Accident and Emergency, maternity units or children’s ward in either hospital.

The petition reads: “The remaining urgent care centres would be led by GPs not consultants. As part of this programme, blue-light Accident & Emergency facilities have already closed at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex hospitals.

“Maternity and children’s Accident & Emergency wards have closed at Ealing and many of the previous specialisms at Charing Cross have moved to St Mary’s in Paddington.

“This would mean that many patients would have to travel considerable distances to other hospitals.

Campaigners have been fighting against changes planned at Charing Cross Hospital

Ealing Council say 500 beds would be lost across north west London, with more than half going from Ealing Hospital, leaving it with just 50 beds.

“Charing Cross would face similar closures later,” it said.

Council leader Julian Bell said: “With no blue-light A&E, no maternity, no children’s ward, no acute beds and an 80% reduction in beds overall, no local resident will recognise the husk that will be left at Ealing under these proposals as a ‘hospital’.

"To argue that what will remain is a ‘local’ hospital is the biggest con of all.

Leader of Ealing Council, Councillor Julian Bell

“At a time when Ealing’s population is growing and the pressures on the local NHS are already so acute, stripping away vital services and capacity is nonsensical.

“A&E waiting times in north west London are already amongst the worst in the country and these proposals threaten to make that worse.

“I’d urge Ealing residents to show their opposition to these reckless plans by signing the petition to the government, urging them to think again and save Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals.”

Charing Cross Hospital’s A&E had originally been earmarked for closure as part of SaHF, but the NHS back-tracked saying it would remain in some shape or size .

Defending SaHF, the NHS has previously argued it will allow patients better access to GPs with more appointments available over weekdays and weekends.

The Independent Healthcare Commission report (Pic: LBHF)

There will be more services closer to people’s homes and more services provided in the community.

The petition is available online at www.sohpetition.co.uk

It is due to close early next year at which point it will be delivered to the government.

A statement from the London North West Healthcare NHS Trust said: "The NHS in Ealing is providing information to patients and staff to reassure them that Ealing Hospital is not closing and that they should use services as normal.

"The information has been provided based on the NHS’s own research into local opinion about the future of the hospital, with many residents stating that they are concerned the hospital is closing."

The NHS would like to hear the views of patients on the future of health care services in the area .

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