THE FIFTY-strong mass picket of Ealing Hospital in west London last Friday shouted: ‘Victory for the A&E! We saved the A&E now re-open maternity!’
The plans to close Ealing and Charing Cross A&Es have been scrapped as a mass campaign by the West London Council of Action has secured a hard-fought victory.
Earlier in the week Tory Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the plans will not go ahead.
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. Their campaign has finally paid off.
The picket was joined by Binda Dhol Master, Harbinder Singh who played the dhol drum. The picket erupted in to cheers and dancing, celebrating the fact that the Tories have been driven back over the A&E closure.
On the picket Joanne McMurrough said: ‘My daughter lives locally and every time one of her kids gets sick she has to go all the way to Hillingdon Hospital.
‘And it is not just getting a sick child to the hospital, she has to take all of them with her, which means getting a cab, which costs money.
‘The Charlie Chaplin Children’s Ward must be re-opened so that the children can be treated here.’
School student Laila Abdi aged 13 said: ‘I was born at Ealing Hospital and I am really happy that they are not going to close it down.
‘Now we have to re-open the maternity so that my children can be born at Ealing. I have seen the picket outside the hospital every single Friday literally.
‘If they closed this hospital down they would just build more flats.’
Gavin Grey said: ‘I have lived in Ealing all of my life. It is a great relief that the A&E has been saved.
‘It is absolutely vital to have an A&E at Ealing.
‘It is not wise or fair to threaten to close any hospital down. We need the NHS. The Tories may well try to privatise it, but we will put a stop to that.
‘We do not want to go down the road of America where you have to pay for health care and if you do not have money you are left to die.
‘This government is going. They have a weak leadership and there is no confidence in the PM.’
Italian restaurant manager Gorica Kusic said: ‘I live in the new block, just built by the hospital. I have two children and I am very happy that the A&E is not going to close but they must make sure that there are children’s services at our local hospital.’
Meanwhile, NHS campaigners mounted last-ditch bids to save vital emergency services.
NHS campaigners are joining forces around the country in a last-ditch bid to save vital emergency services from closing.
Grassroot campaigns in Kent, Shropshire and Dorset are among those mounting further challenges to save A&E, maternity and stroke units as well as mental health beds.
They have formed a closer network having seen campaigners in the south west being given the green light this week to mount a second legal challenge against proposed cuts. Defend Dorset NHS lost a judicial review last year.
Three High Court judges will look again into the campaign group’s case against plans, currently being reviewed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, to downgrade or close A&E and maternity units in Poole.
Defend Dorset NHS said sharing information with fellow campaigners across the country, including campaign tactics and preparing legal action, will be vital in halting the closures.
NHS commissioners in Kent have agreed to replace the county’s six stroke units with three new specialist hyper-acute stroke units (HASUs).
Campaigners say the creation of HASUs, which will put a focus on shortening in-hospital diagnosis and treatment times, will result in a ‘shockingly long’ journey time of one hour for Thanet’s 141,000 residents to Ashford some 39 miles away.
Councillor Alan Jarrett, Medway Council leader, said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ by the decision. Kent and Medway NHS consultants say it is ok to live an hour away from an emergency stroke unit as the most important factor is getting the right care in the days following a stroke.
Writing on the Kent and Medway NHS group website, four local consultants stated why it is fine to live an hour from a HASU.
Any stroke patient who dies within a few hours of having a stroke ‘would almost certainly have died whether they were at home, in an ambulance or being cared for in the best stroke unit in the world’.
They wrote: ‘However most people will survive their stroke, and the critical factor for them is how we can reduce their risk of dying in the following days, minimise their risk of long-term disability and therefore improve independence.
‘We can do that best by getting them to a specialist stroke centre where they can get clot-busting treatment within 30 minutes of arrival if they need it, and round-the-clock care for the vital first few days after their stroke.’
The acute stroke units that are closing are in Medway, Tunbridge Wells and Margate. The worst affected area is the deprived coastal community of Thanet, where around 141,000 people will face a 60 minute journey to Ashford when the Margate unit closes.
The Kent and Medway STP denies that there is a safety issue and that that the reconfigurations are not primarily about saving money, and that they are about improving services and pooling resources.
The closure of A&E and maternity units are proposed in east Kent, with a consultation expected in 2020.
In Shropshire Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital will become the home of planned care, with Royal Shrewsbury Hospital becoming ‘the main 24/7 A&E hospital for the area’, as well as housing most women and children’s services, ‘despite a new centre being opened at the Princess Royal four years ago at a cost of £28 million’, the council said.
Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin CCGs said the approved scheme would mean fewer people would have to travel and it provided best value for money.
In Dorset under the CCG Clinical Services Review, Poole’s A&E, maternity and paediatric services will be lost to Bournemouth, which will become the area’s main emergency hospital. Poole is set to become a centre for planned treatment and operations.
The campaign groups argue that centralisation is ineffective, citing a study last year into similar changes in Northumbria which showed that where three stroke units were centralised into one HASU – at a cost of £95m – death and disability outcomes did not change at all.
In a 2016 BMJ review on the subject, University of Leeds researchers concluded: ‘In the debate between local versus centralised healthcare provision, 77 per cent of the included studies showed evidence of an association between worse health outcomes the further a patient lived from the healthcare facilities they needed to attend.’
The BMJ review emphasised: ‘A distance decay effect cannot be ruled out, and distance/travel time should be a consideration when configuring the locations of healthcare facilities and treatment options for patients.’