The overnight closure of the Accident and Emergency service at Park Royal's Central Middlesex Hospital is likely to be the first step in running down the hospital and its eventual closure a Harlesden meeting was told last week.
North West London NHS is currently consulting on an amalgamation of Ealing, Central Middlesex and Northwick Park hospitals and it looks as if Harlesden and Stonebridge, the poorest areas in Brent may lose their local hospital and have to travel to A and E at Northwick Park, despite very poor public transport links. It is likely that A and E at Ealing, Charing Cross and Hammersmith may also close.
|John Lister addresses the meeting|
John Lister, from the London Health Emergency has been commissioned by Ealing, Brent and Harrow Trade Union Councils, to write a report on the likely impact of the cost-cutting changes. The report will be available soon and a condensed version will be distributed as a tabloid newspaper.
Lister said that the pattern was one of a gradual reduction of different services, starting with A and E, eventually leaving the hospital as an nearly empty shell, which is then closed because people are not using it and nurses and doctors are reluctant to apply for jobs there,
With £314m cuts to be made by NW London NHS by 2015 the hospital closures are just the beginning. Stressing that decisions are being made in order to balance the books, and not on clinical grounds, Lister said that 1,750 jobs will go in the near future, of which 1,000 are clinical.
The aim is to direct patients to 'lower cost' settings, including the setting in which you die. That setting may be your front room and the carer yourself. Jargon such as 'pathway redesign' and 'corporate efficiency' conceal an overall strategy to reduce the number of patients seeking treatment and to restrict access to expensive treatments. The target is to reduce emergency cases annually to a level equivalent to 391 hospital beds and a 22% cut in out-patient appointments.
A further aim is to introduce private providers into the service so that the NHS, the largest public sector organisation, is open to exploitation for profit. The NHS will be left with A & E and maternity services, which are 'too dangerous' for private companies but 'any qualified provider' will offer other services (Virgin, Sainsbury's) undermining pay structures and qualification systems. Lister stressed that with PCTs due to go,GP commissioners will be left holding the baby, but wouldn't have been responsible for the changes that have been made.
John Lister urged local people to use the consultation period to build a movement against the local changes AND against the privatisation of the NHS, lobbying GPs, MPs and local councillors.
|Candy Unwin urges broad-based campaigning|
Candy Unwin from Camden Keep Our NHS Public recounted campaign success in saving Whittington Hospital . Different hospitals, cross party and non-party political groups, trades unions, tenants and unions had come together in a united campaign. She said that 1 in 6 Labour members of the house of Lords and 1 in 4 Tories get money from private companies and that 30 MPs get funding from Virgin, one of the main bidders.
Phil Rose, a regional official from UNITE, said that the changes would result in high quality provision for private patients and low quality for the rest of us. He said that one thing standing in the way of privatisation was NHS workers' terms and conditions which the private sector cannot match. The pensions changes was an attempt to reduce these conditions to make the sector attractive to the private sector. He urged support for the '68 is too late' campaign on retirement age and drew parallels with the creeping privatisation of schools. Job cuts, down-grading of jobs and pay cuts were all in the offing.
In a powerful speech a member of the Methodist Church spoke about Harlesden being a poor area and needing and valuing its local hospital and pledged herself to make people aware of the situation. She said 'Some people are going to die because of these changes'.
I spoke about the link between health and schools as not being just in terms of the privatisation issue, but also that schools were frequent users of A and E when children have accidents and reliant on accessible emergency treatment in incidents such as that at Chalkhill Primary (see below). With its many railway lines, the North Circular Road, Wembley Stadium, industry at Park Royal and Neasden, there was a risk of a major incident and we needed accessible emergency services to cope. Added to that, although things were quieter at present, there was the possibility of violence and the need for a hospital experiences, as Central Middlesex is, in the treatment of gun shot and knife injuries.
Graham Durham's suggestion of a march in September from Harlesden to Central Middlesex Hospital under the banner of Save Central Middlesex Hospital, Save North West London Health Services, was enthusiastically endorsed by the meeting as was a message of solidarity to doctors taking action on Thursday.