North-west London A&E closure plans are 'flawed'

Charing Cross Hospital sign A total of four A&E departments in north-west London could close

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Proposals to close four of north-west London's nine emergency units are "fundamentally flawed", according to an independent report.

Former NHS executive Tim Rideout, who examined the plans, said there was a "lack of regard" for the impact they would have on residents.

The plans involve shutting A&E services at hospitals including Hammersmith and Charing Cross.

The NHS said bigger hospitals would give patients better care.

Health bosses say there would be a £332m gap to plug by 2014/15 if no changes are made however the report said there is no independent verification of hospitals' finances.

It added that the use of location as the main reason for development options failed to take into account the needs of residents and the relative quality of local hospitals.

There was also a lack of regard for the impact the changes would have on residents as 40% of in-patient admissions and 23% of A&E admissions would be affected.

The report added that no changes should be made until the capacity of primary and community care under the Out of Hospitals strategy had been beefed up.

'Profoundly adverse impact'

The A&E departments at risk are at Charing Cross, Ealing, Hammersmith and Central Middlesex hospitals.

Dr Mark Spencer from NHS North West London said: "There's very good evidence that if you centralise some services onto fewer sites you get better outcomes.

"We've already shown that in stroke, in heart attack, in major trauma; where people travel further for better care, they get better outcomes."

But Nick Botterill, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council which commissioned the report, said it would mean residents would have to leave the borough to go to the nearest A&E department.

"We believe they've come up with a wrong option as a result of a flawed consultation process.

"We're not going to let this rest; we're going to make sure that this whole decision is called in, and that the matter is referred to the secretary of state."

The Tory-controlled council leader added: "The impact of these changes will have a profoundly adverse impact on our residents and I believe my duty is to stand up for our residents.

"It's flawed as it looks at north-west London as a whole, and not the individual boroughs and density of populations."

The Shaping a Healthier Future proposals are subject to a formal consultation which closes on 8 October, however Mr Rideout said this deadline should be extended.

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