NHS bosses have come under fire for spending £300,000 on advertising to let people know Hammersmith Hospital’s A&E is closing in just eight weeks time.
It was confirmed at the end of May the department will be closing on September 10 this year but Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter has accused the hospital’s governing body, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, of keeping west Londoners in the dark.
NHS North West London has hired M&C Saatchi at a cost of £55,000 to publish adverts later this month which will tell north-west Londoners about the closure of units at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex Hospitals on the same day and will also outline the future of Charing Cross Hospital’s A&E, which is set to be downgraded.
Concerns have been raised over patients turning up at the wrong hospital in an emergency.
Mr Slaughter, said: “Unless you read my newsletter or their board papers, you won’t know what is happening – and there are 300,000 people in the catchment area. It’s only eight weeks until they close. Imperial’s last report said they weren’t ready and St Mary’s didn’t have the capacity. They are now saying they will be ready, but there is no evidence of that.“
In Parliament last week, the Labour MP accused Imperial of paying M&C Saatchi to spin the decision to close the two A&E departments and said no evidence has been produced to show it is safe to close them.
But Jane Ellison, the parliamentary aide for health, said a ‘slew of information’ had been put out to people in the area .
A spokeswoman from Imperial, said: “We are launching a major public information campaign in NW London to tell as many people as possible that local NHS services are changing.”
She confirmed they will be mailing 285,000 leaflets to local households this month, supplying 312,00 printed bags to local pharmacies and putting ads on 30 bus routes and over 100 poster and billboard sites across a number of boroughs. They will also be sending letters to school parents and will meet with community groups.
Imperial said the cost of buying ad space and printing and distributing materials is around £245,000, with M&C Sattchi being paid around £55,000.
More than 100,000 people have signed a petition against cuts to NHS services in the area.
Hammersmith Hospital’s 12-hour urgent care centre is set to be enhanced and expanded to open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to compensate for the loss.
Patients with urgent but not life-threatening illnesses and injuries will be seen there, with the hospital saying more than half of patients currently attending Hammersmith’s emergency department are seen there now.