Tuesday 19 March 2013

Brent Labour shrinks from supporting Ealing on hospital reorganisation

A motion referring the Shaping a Healthier Future proposals to the Secretary of State, moved by Cllr Claudia Hector, failed to find a seconder at tonight's Brent's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.  The proposals will mean the closure of Central Middlesex A&E.

At the Labour councillors' pre-meeting an alternative motion was amended so that it read that the Committee 'noted' Ealing Council's decision to refer the proposals in case it should appear that Brent Council supported their action. Instead the anodyne motion from Cllr Pat Harrison, seconded by Cllr Helga Gladbaum, said that 'it was right'  that the proposals should be 'thoroughly examined'  and sought assurances that services would not be  reduced or closed  unless changes in infrastructure had 'proved to deliver successful outcomes for residents'. This was passed with Lib Dem support from Cllr Ann Hunter.

The motion was in stark contrast to the earlier passionate call for arms from Sarah Cox of Brent Fightback and Brent SWP who told the Labour councillors that they were heirs to the creators of the National Health Service and, reflecting the commitment of the recently released Spirit of 45,  it was not too late for them to stand up for the NHS, and for the people of Harlesden and Stonebridge, and refer the  decision to the Secretary of State.

Her speech was loudly applauded by Lib Dem councillor Barry Cheese, who went on to make his own heart-felt intervention from first hand sources about the inadequacies of the ambulance service at Northwick Park. He had been told by ambulance workers that two stroke victims in separate ambulances had been delayed treatment because the vehicles had been behind 12 ambulances already on the hospital ramp. As presentations continued he repeatedly called out condemning privatisation. He seems to have moved to the left of the Labour group - which, let's face it, isn't hard.

There was a tedious presentation from NW London NHS on 'Improving Healthcare for people in Brent' that nearly had Cllr Gladbaum chewing the carpet in frustration.  However,  embedded in it was the tiniest hint that there may be slightest of chances that the Central Middlesex A&E decision may only be about 98% final.

One slide read:
  • The NWL Hospitals Trust has set up a project board to consider future  options for the A&E (includes senior representatives and clinicians from the trust and stakeholders)
  • Commissioners expect to be fully involved in any decisions regarding the future of the A&E and would require reassurance regarding any future change in services around:
The reasons for any changes and the evidence behind this view
The likely impact on neighbouring services (eg Northwick park and Imperial)
The alternatives that had been considered
The monitoring that would be put in place
The involvement of stakeholders inc the OSC

The litmus test is whether a change of service would be safer that the current service
I read this as an opportunity for campaigners to continue to put on the pressure and make the case for the retention of the A&E. What we should also be saying though is that the 'current service' at Central Middlesex needs to be strengthened and its running down halted. This view is somewhat reinforced by news that the number of ambulances being directed to Central Middlesex had increased recently.

So let's not give up just yet - keep up the pressure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of course, the facilities at the eventual long-term blue-light A&E departments need to be enlarged to cope. Furthermore, the efficiency of the ambulance service is crucial to a system with fewer such A&E departments.

But the decision to reduce the number of blue-light A&Es in London is the right one. That concentrates more experienced doctors in larger teams, with consultants and diagnostic staff available even at weekends.

It may be a matter of fighting for the money in austerity Britain, to properly fund the changeover, but the change itself will save lives and give better outcomes. It has already with the concentration on specialist hospitals for stroke and heart emergencies.

We need to hear in more detail therefore, why there were two stroke victims in a lengthy queue at Northwick Park, and also why they had not been taken elsewhere.

Politicians have to change their fights from where hospitals are, which should be a clinical decision, to the proper funding of the new hospital model, and new resources available to the ambulance service.