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27.03.19

‘Monstrous’ £500m scheme to close London A&Es scrapped after Hancock U-turn

A £500m plan to axe nearly half of the A&E departments in west London has been scrapped by the health secretary after a seven-year campaign against the “monstrous” shake-up.

Matt Hancock made the announcement to MPs in the Commons that the ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ (SaHF) scheme was no longer supported by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

This means the CCGs will no longer be taking forward the plans to close the A&E departments at Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals, with the latter also expected to sell of 87% of its site for housing.

The SaHF scheme would have cost £500m and would have seen 500 acute beds across the region lost, and £43m has already been spent on consultants alone.

Whilst future changes have been withdrawn, the programme has already led to the closure of Hammersmith and Central Middlesex A&E departments in 2014 and Ealing Hospital’s maternity unit in 2015.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council, Ealing Council, and local campaign group Save Our Hospitals had joined forces to fight the highly controversial plans, and they welcomed the news.

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Hammersmith and Fulham Council refused to sign the North West London STP which it called a “deeply cynical re-hash of earlier flawed plans” and has also commissioned a public inquiry into the proposals.

Ealing Council’s leader Julian Bell said that there had been an “overwhelming opposition to this monstrous plan” and stated that “if today’s announcement in parliament means that the health secretary’s axe is no longer hanging over Ealing and Charing Cross A&Es then I’m delighted.”

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The Save Our Hospitals campaign group also declared victory but warned that “huge problems” remain and that campaigning would continue and Bell said he would keep a “healthy scepticism” as they had been told before that their A&Es had been saved.

The North West London Collaboration of CCGs has been working on the SaHF programme since 2012 and already changes have been implemented such as the new 24/7 urgent care centres and improvements to maternity care and emergency paediatric care.

But in a statement, the CCGs said that following the health secretary’s statement and the publication of the NHS Long-Term Plan, “now is a good time to move on” and that all parts of the NHS are “now in agreement to draw the SaHF programme to a conclusion.”

They said that challenges around tight budgets, recruitment and meeting growing demand still remain and that the announcement does not mean services across north west London will not change.

A new plan for health and care in the region will be devised and will “still need to include changes involving some difficult decisions and trade-offs.”

 Image credit - Fiona HansonPA ArchivePA Images

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