North West London hospitals 'will almost certainly' close
The medical director of the largest commissioning cluster in the capital has said hospitals in north west London "will almost certainly" have to close.
NHS North West London (NWL) medical director Mark Spencer said: "We do need to centralise, probably have fewer hospital sites."
The cluster has been tasked with saving about £1bn over four years.
Ealing Labour council Leader Julian Bell has said hospital closure plans are "unpopular with local people".
NHS NWL serves a population of 1.9 million people in eight boroughs - Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster.
It currently has a budget of about £4bn a year and has been tasked with cutting about £1bn from its budget by 2014-15.
Dr Spencer said: "We have more hospitals per head of population, more hospital beds per head of population and travel time to your local hospital is much shorter than anywhere else in the country.
"And that's an inefficient system."
When asked if hospitals will have to close, he said: "Almost certainly.
"Some of these will continue as diagnostic and outpatient facilities but it's likely some of them won't have hospital beds in them as they do now."
When asked whether NHS NWL will have fewer hospitals with accident and emergency (A&E) services, he replied: "I think that's very likely."
Mr Bell said: "Closing A&E departments will mean it takes longer for people to get treatment and will potentially put lives at risk.
"We will do all we can to oppose closures and demonstrate how unpopular these plans are with local people."
Chief Executive of NHS NWL Anne Rainsberry said: "The financial challenges in London are pretty much unprecedented.
"What we need to do is be able to improve the quality of care across north west London but do that in a way we can become effective."