Update: The Evening Standard report that Dr Tracy Batten, CHief Executive of struggling Imperial NHS Trust (see below), has been forced to withdraw from a £120-taxpayer funded trip to the United States but the rest of the bureaucrats still went on the trip. ‘People will see it as extraordinary that during an A&E crisis, senior management are jetting off on a jolly.
West London is in the grip of a health crisis even before the winter pressures are felt as a direct result of the Government’s A&E closure programme.
Clinical staff and patients are being let down by shambolic leadership. Imperial, Northwick Park and now Chelsea & Westminster Hopsitals have all been through managerial chaos.
This week the Chief Executive of Chelsea & Westminster resigned following a critical Care Quality Commission report. The CQC report on Imperial is expected before Christmas. Imperial has had three Chief Executives already in the space of a year. The CE of Northwick Park also left this month.
Imperial’s response to this at their board meeting on Wednesday was to announce that 20 senior managers would set off on a week-long junket to the US this weekend to look at American healthcare systems, paid for from NHS budgets.
The performance of west London hospitals has collapsed following the closure of the A&E departments at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex Hospitals in September. North West London Trust that runs Northwick Park and Ealing hospitals was rated as worst in the country for A&E performance in October. As many as a third of patients were waiting over 4 hours against a target of 95%. Imperial (they refuse to provide separate figures for Charing Cross and St Mary’s) fell to 82%. Two million people in west London rely on the remaining seven A&E departments.
Also this week the BBC reported that ambulance crews in London have to be given special permission before being allowed to take patients to Northwick Park A&E, even if it is the closest hospital. Local GPs have also been requested to refer their patients elsewhere. This is a worrying development. NHS England have belatedly started an inquiry into the closure of the two A&Es and I have written to ask that this be extended to include the effect on all local hospital and the ambulance service.
Despite the current crisis, last week the medical director for the NHS in London confirmed that it is still the plan to close the A&E departments at Ealing & Charing Cross. Instead there would be an ‘emergency centre’ at Charing Cross staffed by GPs and nurses, but with no stroke unit, intensive care or emergency surgery – indeed no emergency consultants on site. This would be little more than a minor injuries unit.
Further closures would be an act of sheer recklessness and folly. With health campaigners, local councils and west London MPs I am calling for the suspension of the ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ closure programme pending an independent inquiry into its viability and a guarantee of no further service closures in the interim. We also need a genuine public consultation into proposals for changes to the acute services in north west London.
On Wednesday I put this to David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions. I asked the Prime Minister whether he would abandon any further cuts to A&E services in West London. I will let you judge his answer for yourselves, but I was appalled by both his ignorance or lack of candour on the issue. This was the man who visited Hammersmith a week before the council elections in May and said Charing Cross would ‘retain its A&E’ in a vain hope to stop H&F voting Labour. He knew then and now that this is not his Government’s intention.
Labour’s Health Spokesperson Andy Burnham said in Parliament last week that “what is happening in west London should send a shiver down the spine of every community across the country.” He is right. We ae being used as the blueprint for the de-skilling, downgrading and privatisation of the NHS, which a further Conservative-led Government would aim to complete if given another term.
Good news for Ghoncheh
The Iranian authority took a positive step forward last weekend when they released Shepherds Bush resident Ghoncheh Ghavami on bail. Law graduate Ghohcheh, who turned 26 on Monday, had been visiting family in Iran when she was arrested and charged with "propagating against the ruling system" after she tried to attend a men’s volleyball match in June.
Her story has been heard round the world from Sydney to Shropshire and I now hope we can secure her full release and safe return home to west London.
On Tuesday with Ghoncheh’s brother Iman I met with the Middle East Minister at the Foreign Office to discuss what further steps the UK Government are taking to see that Ghoncheh is not returned to prison and allowed to leave Iran.
I also had the opportunity to raise the issue in Parliament during a debate on Iranian-UK nuclear relations. You can read my intervention here.
To keep the pressure on the Iranian authorities, please sign the petition here.
Help your local food bank
Food banks should not exist in 2014 in one of the wealthiest cities in the world but under the Coalition Government they are growing in size and number and increasingly being seen as an alternative not a temporary supplement to the welfare state.
That said, I have nothing but praise for those run and volunteer in food banks, like the Trussell Trust which has operated in H&F for over four years. On Thursday I took part in Tesco’s Neighbourhood Food Collection on behalf of Hammersmith& Fulham Food Bank, visiting the Brook Green store. This is a week-long collection at all Tesco stores around the UK and continues this weekend. But the collecting and distribution goes on all year. Contact them here for more details and to make a donation.
Time to end unfair ‘revenge evictions’
Today I will be supporting a private member’s bill to end so-called ‘revenge evictions’. This happens when bad landlords rather than listen to their tenants’ legitimate complaints use the current law to evict them quickly and without reason.
On Sunday the Observer reported a poll of more than 4,500 private tenants across the country which revealed that poor conditions are simply the standard many renting families. Nearly half confirmed that in the last year they lived in a property affected by damp (44%) or mould (48%).
The Bill is a good start but there are a lot of other reasons landlords use to get rid of tenants or rack up their rents. A Labour government would go further and introduce three-year tenancies, limit rent increases and abolish extortionate letting fees.
Save the Market!
Also this afternoon I have a debate in the Commons on the future of Shepherds Bush Market. I have been campaigning for several years with the shopkeepers and stallholders at the Market to stop their businesses being wiped out to make way for luxury flats. Earlier this year we won: the planning inspector ruled that the previous Conservative Council was wrong to help the developer to compulsorily purchase the area. But then a Tory minister overruled the Inspector without giving any reason. By challenging this decision in Parliament I hope discover why the destruction of the hundred year-old Market and local small shops was approved by the Conservatives.
With my colleagues David Lammy and Luciana Berger, shadow public health minister, I was delighted once again to present awards at the NAZ Oscars last night. NAZ, based in Hammersmith, offers sexual health and HIV prevention and support services to Black and Minority Ethnic communities in London. It is a ground-breaking organisation, and the Oscars are a spectacular evening. Last night we celebrated the way faith leaders from the Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities have been persuaded by NAZ to start talking openly about sexual health issues.