It’s been a week of mixed news for London’s A&Es. On Tuesday, the Appeal Court backed an earlier judgement overturning the decision to downgrade Lewisham’s A&E; but on Wednesday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that Hammersmith and Central Middlesex A&Es will be turned into Urgent Care Centres but Ealing and Charing Cross, previously faced with the same fate, would keep A&E services even if they are “a different shape or size”.
Many people, including Londonist, raised a sceptical eyebrow at the Ealing and Charing Cross announcement. You may remember Hunt using similar phrasing about Lewisham, still calling it an A&E but in reality it would have been an Urgent Care Centre with some inpatient beds (and confused people asking why, if it’s an A&E, they were being sent somewhere else with their burst appendix). That scenario never came to pass as all plans to change services at Lewisham were defeated in court. So there’s hope for campaigners in west London, right?
We’re afraid not. Lewisham won its case on a legal technicality – a very important one, but still a technicality. Lewisham was never supposed to be in the mix when South London Health Trust (of which Lewisham was not a part) was reorganised following bankruptcy. Lewisham argued, and the courts agree, that Hunt “acted outside his powers” by cutting back services. (The government are now seeking to rectify such Commie insistence that a minister should act legally by changing the law.)
In north west London, the reforms have come from the NHS itself, which meets Hunt’s criteria that local clinicians should support changes. Ealing Council tried to appeal, but that was rejected. At a time when A&Es are under increasing strain – yesterday in the House of Lords, the (Labour) Lord Hunt of Kings Heath said that London has missed the government’s A&E targets in 48 of the previous 52 weeks – it seems counterproductive to close units before the issues putting pressure on A&Es are resolved.
So we’re still waiting to find out what’s really going to happen at Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals. Hunt says they’ll get £80m investment each, but as for the services provided – your guess is as good as ours.
Photo by Andy Worthington from the Londonist Flickr pool