I was down in Harlesden this afternoon for our regular spot publicising the closure of Central Middlesex Hospital A&E and the planned protest march on September 15th. We often had queues waiting to sign the petition to local MPs asking them to take a stand against the closure and opposing the privatisation of the NHS.
Local people, many wearing special T-shirts and Jamaican colours ahead of the 50th anniversary of Jamaica independence, expressed anger at the closure, blamed the Coalition and its attitude to the poor and several took away petition forms to collect additional signatures in the community.
Many expressed support for the hospital where they had been treated and where their children had been born and stressed that the needy local community, particularly the young and the elderly, needed a readily accessible local A&E. They were scathing about the proposal that they should go to Northwick Park in future.There was fury at the likely downgrading of the hospital after millions of 'our money' had been spent up grading in the recent past.
There were frequent comments about privatisation and comments such as 'this government wants to make this country like America where you don't get treated unless you have the money'.
One local shopkeeper who has signed the petition last week came over and told me that he had been down to Central Middlesex to try and find out what was happening. He said that he had been told it was a 'done deal' and that the Trust intended to sell off surplus land created by the closure to build housing or a hotel. I was rather doubtful about the latter but the sell of makes sense in terms of the Trust's debts. Once again it seems that it will be the poor who pay, this time with their health or in the worst scenario, their lives.