Last Friday the NHS was 65 years old and I was privileged to join with staff at Central Middlesex Hospital and the Shadow Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham MP in celebrating that very auspicious birthday.
The NHS remains the Labour Party’s proudest achievement. Universal free health care for everyone in this country is a huge achievement and a lasting legacy for what Labour can achieve for ordinary people when we are in power.
Whilst it was a day for celebration there should also be a recognition that the NHS will not endure another 65 years without, as the architect of the NHS Nye Bevan said, "people who are prepared to fight for it." That is why we are using the anniversary as a focal point for our campaigning efforts across the borough and to raise awareness about the threat to our local hospitals.
Four out of the nine A&Es that serve West London have been threatened with closure. Ealing Hospital, Hammersmith Hospital, Charing Cross Hospital and Central Middlesex Hospital are all scheduled to be downgraded. However through our Save Our Hospitals campaign the council has forced the secretary of State to review the decision. The Independent Reconfiguration Panel, which is the body that review NHS closures, will be in the Borough throughout July examining the decision. During this time we need local people to show that they are opposed to the closures to A&Es as well as maternity and paediatrics.
The council has printed free post postcards to allow people to write to the panel to explain how these closures will lead to longer journey times for emergency treatment, threatening lives, and resulting in poorer health services that seriously reduce patient choice. The Council has sent postcards to everyone in the Borough and I urge everyone to return them as soon as they can making your opposition clear. This is your last chance to have your say on the proposed changes and to save our hospitals. We met the IRP as councillors this Monday and I sensed there was a real opportunity to halt these crazy proposals in their current form.
The NHS belongs to all of us and we all need to do our bit to fight for it and protect it.