Hands Off Our Hospitals!

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ANY attempt to use a new ‘Ofsted-style’ hospital inspection regime to justify closure of any South-West London hospital will be ‘vigorously fought,’ leading local union officer Kevin O’Brien, who represents more than 50,000 trade unionists in the area, told News Line yesterday.

‘I would hope that they’re not going in there to bring about the closure of hospitals’ he said.’

Rehana Azam, GMB national officer, added: ‘If this is just another way in which government will try to justify what their actual plans for the NHS are – which is to privatise it – then it is completely wrong.’

Care Quality Commission Inspectors moved into closure-threatened Croydon District General Hospital yesterday, the first of 18 inspections it intends to carry out by the end of 2013.

Sir Mike Richards, the new chief inspector of hospitals, claimed the inspections will ‘expose poor and mediocre care’ and that ‘we know there is too much variation in quality in the NHS.’

The Croydon inspection continues today, and then tomorrow the inspectors go into Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, followed by Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, and Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust next week.

By the end of 2015 the CQC says it will have inspected all acute hospitals in England.

Teams of about 30 ‘inspectors’ swoop on hospitals, claiming to focus on the ‘whole patient experience’ in eight areas: A&E; medical care; surgery; critical care; maternity; paediatrics; end-of-life care and outpatients.

Inspections may be announced or unannounced, and will include evenings and weekends. The ‘results’ will be published about a month after each inspection.

Croydon University Hospital’s Accident and Emergency and Maternity services are under threat of closure as part of the ‘Better Services Better Value’ (BSBV) programme of cuts in South-West London.

O’Brien, Unison Branch Secretary, Epsom and St Hellier University Hospitals NHS Trust, and Secretary of Merton and Sutton TUC, warned that any attempt to use the inspection as justification to cut or close services would be ‘vigorously fought’.

He told News Line: ‘I would hope that they keep in mind both the main message of the Frances Report and its supplement, the Keogh Report, both of which warned of the serious consequences of poor staffing levels, particularly at the front line.

‘It is not the NHS that is “failing” but the government, which is failing to provide adequate resources, especially at the front line, and to provide appropriate nursing levels in the wards.

‘Croydon is no worse nor better than any NHS trust, the problem lies with the failure of this government.

‘The Better Services Better Value proposals across South West London are to close two A&Es, two maternity departments and “rationalise” children’s services into one site.

‘The hospitals in South West London, which include Croydon, Epsom and St Hellier, Kingston and St Georges, are essential for the provision of health care to the local communities.

‘I represent 1,300 Unison members at Epsom and St Helier’s, as well as over 50,000 on the trades council, and any attempt to close any of these hospitals, or their services, will be vigorously opposed.’