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Issue #1571      31 October 2012

Massive hospital bed cuts plan exposed

Public health experts exposed worrying plans last week that could see more than a quarter of west London hospital beds slashed. Campaigners revealed that secret proposals to axe almost 1,000 hospital beds in north-west London by 2015 were left out of publicised material.

NHS North West London has just completed a consultation on its document “Shaping a Healthier Future”, which proposes the closure of four A&E (accident and emergency) units in Ealing, Charing Cross, Hammersmith and Central Middlesex Hospitals.

Opponents of the scheme have stressed that the hospitals at risk are in some of the most deprived areas in north-west London.

They have widely criticised the lack of any detailed proposals on what services would replace the axed hospital care and plans in other NHS north-west London documents to axe 5,600 jobs, most of them clinical posts.

But now public health experts have flagged concerns over the huge number of beds to be cut in hospitals in addition to those at risk in the four hospitals targeted.

The total 979 beds to be cut make up more than a quarter of the 3,449 available in the vast eight-borough area. These plans are listed in the pre-consultation business case but were not included in the consultation despite the potential impact on patient care for some of the most seriously ill patients in west London.

Experts said the largest numbers and proportion of beds to be cut are in some of the hospitals which do not appear to be directly affected by the A&E closures or the plans set out in “Shaping a Healthier Future”.

London Health Emergency director John Lister warned against the “shockingly irresponsible plan, which is effectively being smuggled through without proper public debate.

“We have now heard the grave concerns of public health professionals – the very people whose job it is to take care of the health of whole populations – who fear that the system just will not be able to cope. The figures they highlight show that the danger affects all areas of west London.”

NHS North West London officials admitted that the plans were not yet even at the drawing board stage.

Morning Star  

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