Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Central Middlesex closes its doors for the last time and the community loses yet another amenity

It was significant that last night on Twitter someone reacted with shock to the news that Central Middlesex A&E will be closed today saying 'but that's my local hospital. I've it used since I was a kid!'

The remark indicates both our failure to get the message out in time to more people and thus moblise them, and also the sense of ownership that local people have for what many call 'Park Royal'.

Photo Sarah Cox

Symbolic protests took place this morning at  Hammersmith and Cen tral Middlesex A&Es to mark their closure.

On Monday the Council called for the closure to be delayed until Northwick Park A&E was in a fit state to take over Central Middlesex's role.

Yesterday evening at the Brent Council Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Mary Daly tore into the 'men in suits' behind the closure accusing them of failing in their 'duty of candour'.

Today the Central Middlesex A&E is closed.

In truth Brent Council was very slow to recognise the negative impact of the closure and while Ealing Councl was leafleting residents and advertising on buses, it was left to Brent Fightback and other campaigners to get the word out in Brent  with street leafleting and public meetings.

Campaigners attended consultations and  repeatedly pointed out the degree of deprivation of the population that used Central Middlesex; the health statistics for the area; low car ownership and poor transport links to Northwick Park; the presence of the large industrial estate at Park Royal with a high risk of industrial accidents; Wembley Stadium and major railway lines with the potential for major incidents (remember the Harrow train crash of1952 which killed 85 people?) and the strain on the ambulance service when, with only an Urgent Care Centre on the Central Middlesex site, needy patients will have to be transferred to Northwick Park.

After months of consultations and meetings none of these issues have been satisfactorily addressed and the Care Quality Commission's (CQC) report on Northwick Park and Centrasl Midddlesex Hospitals has added further doubt. Northwick Park was given a 'requires improvement rating' and Central Middlesex A&E a 'good'.

The 'men in suits' quickly moved into PR mode following that report, and before the closure, with a 'feel good' story about the new Northwick Park A&E, faithfully carried by the Kilburn Times LINK.

In fact the new unit will not be ready until November at the earliest and full operational changes until 2015.  There are concerns about the intervening period and Scrutiny called for further reports from the Hospital Trust.  Meanwhile some members of the Clinical Commissioning Group, with interests in  out-sourced services, are keen to bad mouth the hospitals and claim that they can offer something better.

Unfortunately the privatisation of health means that doctors and other staff often have private interests in health provision and there were calls from the public gallery last night for these interests to be declared at such meetings. 

I agree. 

Hospital Trust officials claimed at Scrutiny that the CQC's concerns were being addressed and that 20 new beds at Northwick Park would come into use today and help clear the backlog at Northwick Park A&E.  It would improve bed capacity by 20%.  They claimed that a new clinical and medical leadership team was now in place and would result in improvement.

In remarks that were not fully explored Scrutiny were told that the Trust would improve capacity at Northwick Park for the winter by looking for additional beds outside the hospital on other sites. This raises the prospects of the elderly being sent further afield during the peak illness periods which coincide with severe weather.

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