FOUR-HOUR waits in A&E at north Middlesex Hospital have increased by 380% while at the Royal Free Hospital in London, four-hour waits in A&E have increased by 366%.
Both of these extremely concerning rises, the highest in the country, are a direct result of the closure of the A&E services at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield. Despite mass marches and an occupation organised by the North East London Council of Action, the Accident and Emergency Department at Chase Farm Hospital closed on December 9 2013. The maternity and children’s department was closed the year before.
As a result, any patients from the Enfield area suffering from a heart attack, stroke, involved in a serious traffic accident or indeed a pregnant woman who is in urgent need of a Caesarean has to now be transported to North Middlesex or The Royal Free.
During the peak of the NHS winter crisis in January, North Middlesex was forced to close the doors of its A&E as it was ‘close to meltdown’. The Hospital Trust made the announcement ‘If you have not got a life threatening illness … go home.’ Now North Middlesex hospital itself is threatened with closure.
Over January, North Middlesex was running at 100% capacity with every single bed filled for 23 days. The Royal College for Emergency Medicine (RCEM) said yesterday there is a ‘large and systemic problem’ caused by a lack of hospital beds.
Dr Simon Howse, policy research manager at RCEM, said there was no evidence more people were wrongly using A&E compared with a decade ago. The problem in hospitals, he said, is ‘a large and systemic problem’ in which ‘hospitals are being asked to do something they are not resourced to do. They are trying to treat a growing and more needy population with fewer and fewer beds.’
Bill Rogers Secretary of the North East London Council of Action said: ‘We led the local community in a determined struggle to defend Chase Farm Hospital and stop the closures. We even occupied the Clock Tower, we could not have done more. We had a daily picket outside the hospital.
‘The big lesson from Chase Farm Hospital closing is not that people were unconcerned. There was an occupation which was well supported and illegally broken up by the police.
‘The reason that they were able to get away with this is that the trade union leaders did not give it officially support, did not sponsor it and refused to take part in it, despite the fact that local bus workers said that they were willing to take strike action to keep their hospital open, but the trade union leaders refused to act.
‘The closure of Chase Farm Hospital has helped create the horrific situation which we now see at North Middlesex. The lesson of all of this is that the trade unions must lead an occupation of North Middlesex Hospital to keep it open and fully functioning. It is a matter of life and death.
‘They must also appeal to all the local trade unions to take strike action. The lesson from Chase Farm is that this is the only way that this hospital can be saved from destruction.’