NHS North West London has confirmed that controversial plans to cut 500 acute care beds in the region have been put on hold for the next five years.
But, the NHS has fallen short of saying that it will now scrap plans to close Ealing and Charing Cross A&E departments.
The announcement came after a report commissioned by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan earlier this month, said that plans ‘to reduce the use of hospitals and cut bed numbers were not credible on the scale proposed’.
NHS chiefs have also admitted that hospital bed numbers in the region have increased since 2012, due to demand pressures, while at the same time publicly maintaining that its plan to cut 500 beds at Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals was safe.
The Mayor’s report, which was produced by independent health experts The King’s Fund, also criticised the speed in which plans were pulled together and the lack of engagement with local authorities, staff and the public.
Coucnil leader Julian Bell said: “I am pleased that the NHS has finally recognised that it is not safe to take these beds out of the system. Everything our Save Our Hospitals campaign has said for the past six years has been vindicated.
“While there is still a long way to go before we can be sure services are saved, I want to thank our local campaigners who have marched, signed petitions, taken part in surveys and shared their opposition to scrapping essential health services. We know nine out of 10 local people are opposed to these plans but without this public pressure I fear plans could have been railroaded through.”
Councillor Binda Rai, the council’s cabinet member for health and adults’ services, said: “An axe has been hanging over our A&Es for the last six years.
“The staff working in these hospitals, the public and the council need assurances that in any new plan that they will be saved from closure. We also want to know that service won’t be run down through lack of investment and then closed via the backdoor. Regardless of your postcode, everyone in the region should have the same access to high-quality healthcare that our NHS is known for throughout the world.
“In NHS planning terms – five years isn’t a long time. There are many questions that need answers and so I will be pressing the NHS to meet with us and explain in more detail the implications of its announcement. Alongside the community campaign, Ealing Council will continue to fight to protect our local NHS services including A&Es at Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals.
“As a community we need to continue to fight for our local A&Es and so I would urge people to register for updates from us at www.ealing.gov.uk/register”
The King’s Fund report, commissioned by the Mayor of London to review the NHS STP plans for London is available to read in full.
In March 2018 representatives of Ealing Council, along with a delegation of community campaigners, submitted the Save Our Hospitals petition to the Department of Health. It had more than 22,000 signatures.
A survey commissioned by Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham councils to canvass residents’ views about the NHS North West London’s Shaping a Healthier Future plan found widespread opposition to the planned cuts to hospital services.
Since 1 April 2017, local NHS organisations need to meet three new conditions before they can implement significant bed closures that NHS England will approve.