The Socialist 22 February 2012 |
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Fighting to defend the NHS
Save Charing Cross hospital!
It's clear that plans are now well advanced which will savagely cut hospital provision in an area of eight local authorities in North West London.
At the end of January, NHS North West London published a paper: "Shaping a Healthier Future - Case for Change". This is part of a softening-up exercise before cuts are announced in June.
The paper tries to provide a rationale for fewer hospital beds and hospital sites. For instance, they say that: "...at the end of people's lives, more want to die at home rather than in hospital, and the NHS needs to do more to enable this." Certainly, by removing beds and closing hospitals they will make this happen, whether patients like it or not!
Under the guise of meeting the changing health needs of the population, hospitals are being earmarked for closure, with no guarantees that there will be any increased funding for alternative provision in the community.
The overall aim seems to be to reduce by 20% to 30% the numbers being admitted to hospitals in North West London. This is planned against the background of a 9% fall in hospital beds in NW London over the past five years.
The paper also says: "Patient experience is generally poor across NW London hospitals." This may be true, but the answer is not to shut down the hospitals, but to improve them, to raise staff morale and to invest the £150 million they admit is needed.
It is clear that this is not under consideration and as a result are identifying hospitals for closure - almost certainly Charing Cross, and quite possibly Ealing and others too.
Rich and poor
The rich and privileged of this part of London are immune to these cuts through their access to expensive private healthcare. But ordinary working people risk the decimation of their services.
Already huge discrepancies exist in life expectancy in the area. Queen's Gate in Kensington and Chelsea has the highest male life expectancy (88.3 years). But a short trip down the Harrow Road is Harlesden in Brent, where it is 71.5 years - a difference of 17 years!
In Westminster, the average life expectancy for women is 90.3 years in exclusive Knightsbridge and Belgravia compared to only 76.6 years in the working class ward of Church Street.
This is not the first time that hospitals in the area have faced the threat of closure. In particular, with the 1992 Tomlinson report, and then again in 2005, when Charing Cross was in line to lose its A&E department, it was only through a massive campaign of resistance, involving both staff unions and the wider community, that these threats were lifted.
Socialist Party members, and its predecessor, Militant Labour, played a pivotal role in these campaigns.
Prior to the launch of the so-called public consultation exercise in June, it is vital that a campaign rooted in the local community is in place.
The Socialist Party in West London is already out on the streets of Hammersmith and Fulham opposing any proposals to get rid of A&E at Charing Cross as a prelude to closing the hospital.
We are meeting an overwhelmingly favourable response. We will also be raising the issue of opposition to health and hospital cuts as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition challenge in the London assembly elections.