Leading members of the NHS have accused Hammersmith and Fulham Council leader Stephen Cowan of peddling “inaccurate and misleading claims” about Charing Cross Hospital .
Cllr Cowan has been criticised by the chief executive of the trust which runs the hospital, and the chief officer of the North West London collaboration of clinical commissioning groups (CCG), after borough residents received a letter informing them that “NHS bosses have re-launched plans to close Charing Cross” as part of the north west London sustainability and transformation plan (STP) .
Making a formal complaint in their joint response, Dr Tracey Batten, from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, and Clare Parker, from the CCG, say there have never been plans to close the Fulham Palace Road hospital and that the STP actually secures the Charing Cross’s A&E department and wider services in the immediate future.
They say the letter, which was circulated with council tax updates in March, contains a number of incorrect claims “likely to cause significant, unnecessary distress to patients and staff” and demanded he publicly retracts them.
In Cllr Cowan’s message to residents, he says the NHS has plans to demolish Charing Cross and replace it with an Urgent Care Clinic which would be just 13% the size of the original hospital.
It mentions the independent public inquiry led by Michael Mansfield and adds: “They [NHS] have relaunched their flawed plan in a new report - the North West London STP - and still have the demolition of Charing Cross Hospital and the sale of much of its site as a key part of their scheme.”
Dr Batten and Ms Parker told Cllr Cowan: “As you will be fully aware, there have never been any plans to close Charing Cross Hospital.
“You will also know that, far from ‘re-launching’ proposals for changes at Charing Cross, the North West London Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) made a clear commitment that there will be no reduction in Charing Cross’s A&E department or wider services within the lifetime of the plan (that runs until April 2021)."
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They continue: “And we recently updated you on a £2.5 million investment in urgent and emergency care services and theatres at Charing Cross.”
The letter goes on to say that it’s more important than ever for the NHS and local authorities to work closely together, before questioning the local administration’s motives.
It says: “It is difficult to understand why the council would choose to spend significant sums of public money fighting ‘closure plans’ that do not exist and when your NHS partners have clearly set out that service changes over at least the next five years will be focused on providing better ways of helping local people stay healthy and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions or long stays.
“As such, through this letter, we are raising a formal complaint with you regarding this publicity material and its content which we believe has clearly breached the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, specifically around objectivity and even-handedness.
“We request that you stop any further promotion of this leaflet and publicly retract your misleading claims.”
At a public meeting held at Hammersmith Town Hall in November, residents expressed fears that STP plans would force the closure of Ealing and Charing Cross Hospitals .
Hammersmith and Fulham Council has been asked for comment.
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