THE PLANS to close Ealing and Charing Cross A&Es have been scrapped after a mass campaign by the West London Council of Action secured a hard-fought victory.
For the last seven years, ever since the Tories announced they were planning to close the A&Es at Ealing and Charing Cross, the local community of west London has come together to stand up and fight, demanding: ‘Hands off our hospitals!’
In October 2014, as part of a ‘drive towards efficiency savings in the NHS’, Ealing Hospital NHS Trust merged with The North West London Hospitals NHS Trust.
The merger meant that emergency services, maternity services and children’s services would be ‘shared’ between Ealing Hospital, Northwick Park and St Mark’s Hospital, and Central Middlesex Hospital.
On September 10 2014, two hospital accident and emergency units were closed. Hammersmith and Central Middlesex both lost their A&E services on the same day.
People suffering from heart attacks, or strokes, road accidents or any other emergency then had to be rushed miles away to either St Mary’s in Paddington, Northwick Park, Charing Cross or Ealing hospitals. This put significant pressure on the surrounding hospitals, including Ealing Hospital, where the percentage of patients being seen in under 4 hours fell to 67.8%. Then to the horror of the community they announced the maternity services at Ealing were going to shut.
The West London Council of Action was launched to fight these attacks, calling a conference, and a mass march through Southall Broadway. On the day when the last woman was admitted for a live birth, the people of Southall rose up and joined the march shouting: ‘Defend maternity! Occupy now!’ The demonstration marched straight into the hospital and the occupation began!
The occupation of Ealing Hospital got into full swing, with shifts ensuring that the entrance to the closure-threatened maternity department was occupied 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Local residents, workers, students and youth all signed up to the rota to ensure that the maternity department at Ealing Hospital did not close.
Another march was called on the day of the full closure, July 1st. All the shops on the Broadway shut in support of the struggle. However, despite the best efforts of the local community, the ward was shut. What was lacking was leadership from the hospital trade unions. They should have called strike action to defend jobs and stop the closure of the maternity ward.
The government then announced the closure of the Charlie Chaplin Children’s Ward at Ealing Hospital. Again the campaign led by the West London Council of Action and the Workers Revolutionary Party organised a series of mass marches and demonstrations, where loads of young people, school students and students from the local college joined with their own banners.
The weekly picket of Ealing Hospital was stepped up to a daily picket. There was mass support from doctors, nurses and hospital staff to keep the ward open, but once again the trade union leaders refused to organise their members to take action to stop the closure.
On June 30, the children’s ward was shut! The closure of the ward meant that:
- Blue light ambulances no longer took children to Ealing A&E. They are routed to other hospitals.
- Paediatric specialists were no longer available on-site at Ealing Hospital to treat critically ill children.
The campaign however was stepped up and yesterday’s mass picket of Ealing Hospital made crystal clear that the campaign to keep the A&E open was and is a lifesaver!
At this moment, up and down the country, A&Es, maternity services and children’s wards are threatened with closure because of Tory cuts.
Workers must set up Councils of Action to stop all closures. Councils of Action, supported by the trade unions, must occupy any department threatened with closure. The entire working class must be mobilised to defend the NHS with a general strike to bring this government down.
A workers government will then re-open all closed departments and hospitals, and build and further develop the NHS under socialism.