CAMPAIGNERS fighting the closure of four accident and emergency units have been enraged by an announcement that a public consultation backs the controversial plans.
The results of the consultation over plans to dramatically reshape healthcare in north west London were revealed by health bosses on Wednesday night. It sets out proposals to downgrade four of the area’s nine hospitals.
The consultation proposes losing A&Es in Hammersmith and Central Middlesex Hospitals plus two more. Respondents supporting the closure of units in Ealing and Charing Cross as opposed to other hospitals came out on top.
But campaigners say the figures are skewed by the shoddy way it was conducted.
Colin Standfield, chairman of Ealing Save Our Services, cited the campaign by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital which sent out postcards merely asking residents to tick a box supporting the option to downgrade Ealing and Charing Cross.
He said: “The consultation was rigged, the figures do not add up and it is biased, pushing people to choose options in health bosses’ favour.”
About 17,000 people officially responded to the consultation but not everyone filled out the whole form. For some questions the figure drops to less than 5,000.
But NHS North West London insists the influence of campaigns will be taken into account when it makes its decision in February.
Dr Mark Spencer, medical director for Shaping a healthier future, said: “We spent 14 weeks on this consultation, attending 200 different meetings, speaking with thousands of people, and distributing hundreds of thousands of documents.
“All responses are being considered, including petitions, and it is clear local people feel very strongly.
“The way petitions and other responses have been assessed should not be seen as either some kind of vote or as a final decision. All responses will be taken into account when the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts makes its decision.”
But opponents of the shake-up say they do not believe him.
Dr Onkar Sahota AM, Chair of the Save Our Hospitals Ealing campaign, said: “We’ve always said the consultation was a sham – now our worst fears have been confirmed.”
He said the responses do not reflect public opinion, pointing out Save Our Hospital’s campaigners from Ealing, Brent and Hammersmith collected 80,000 signatures on petitions.
Dr Sahota added: “The consultation was based on the false assumption that five A&E units is adequate to serve north west London’s current population of some two million people.”
Ealing Council leader Julian Bell promised campaigners would fight on.
He said: “The results of the consultation show the majority of respondents, 38 per cent, actually opposed its basic principle of bringing more healthcare services together on fewer sites. This is a major flaw which undermines the very principle of the proposed reforms.”