‘Only’ five and a half years after the announcement that Charing Cross Hospital would be demolished as part of a huge reorganisation of the nine hospitals in NW London, the plans have begun to unravel.
An article in the Health Service Journal revealed the contents of a secret report putting on hold the funding for the first part of the downsizing scheme because it looked unworkable.
I’d love to claim some of the credit for this as both Lord (Alf) Dubs and I have hosted debates on Charing Cross in the last two weeks, in the Commons and Lords respectively. But the answer is more prosaic -; the scheme was absurd from day one and the signs of its failure have been ever present, as I wrote in an article to coincide with the debate.
To remind those understandably confused by what has happened so far:
In 2012 we were told the entire CXH site would be cleared and sold for private development save for a clinic on 3% of the site.
In 2013 we told that 40% of the land (but only 13% of the floor area) would be preserved as a new ‘local’ hospital. But this turned out to be just a collection of primary care and treatment services.
The ‘new’ hospital was spun by Jeremy Hunt and the (then Tory) H&F council as including an A&E but this turned out to be a care centre with no consultant or ambulance attendance, and the demolition would go ahead with the loss of 90% of beds.
In 2014 the council changed hands, in part on public opposition to the plans for Charing Cross, and the new Labour Council got behind the Save our Hospital campaign.
But this could not stop the closure of Hammersmith and Central Middlesex A&Es the same year. As result of this and rising demand, waiting times at Charing Cross soared. Now around 70% of patients are seen within four hours against a target of 95%
For years no further document was published and there was no public consultation, though independent reviews, like the Mansfield Commission, and opinion surveys showed almost universal opposition to the plans.
However, in 2016 we were told the reorganisation now changed from ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ to the ‘Sustainability and Transformation Partnership’ would be delayed and split in two. Ealing, the other main hospital under threat, would go first, with Charing Cross’s demolition not until 2021, four years later than planned.
Now one of the NHS’s own regulatory bodies has raised doubts that even this first part of the scheme is feasible. They do not believe that it is possible to improve GP and social care services sufficiently to allow for 500 acute beds to be lost across NW London.
In the middle of this the Care Quality Commission reported that while Hammersmith and St Mary’s Hospitals still needed improvement, Charing Cross’s services were rated as good. Yet the Government saw no irony in supporting the delayed demolition plan.
Then last year the urgent care centre at St Mary’s Hospital was privatised. A month ago it was put into special measures. At least St Mary’s still has its A&E. If Hunt gets his way all Charing Cross will have is an urgent care centre.
So we have won some battles but not the war. Charing Cross is still standing and the facts on the ground mean it is likely to be indispensable for many years to come. But the continuing threat is bad for investment, for morale and for maintaining its reputation as one of England’s leading teaching hospital.
So I make no excuse for asking you to sign the latest petition to remove the threat to Charing Cross. People power is a blunt but effective weapon. And after all, it is you who pay for our NHS, so perhaps you should have the final say.
Now we are in Willesden
I’m sorry if I alarmed everyone earlier in the year by saying that Shepherds Bush was being separated from Hammersmith and moved to Ealing (for the purposes of the Parliamentary boundary review). About 500 local residents shared my concern and objected.
Two weeks ago the Boundary Commission showed they are capable of changing their minds. We are no longer heading west. Now they want to put the whole of Shepherds Bush into a seat called Willesden. So if you live on the north side of the Goldhawk Road you will be part of a seat that stretches up to Wembley with one arm and Kilburn with the other. If you live on the south side of Goldhawk Road you will share an MP with Chelsea Harbour.
We have one more chance to object, so long as we do so by 11 December. To be fair to the Boundary Commission, the task the Government set them -; designed mainly to increase the proportion of Tory seats -; made their work very tricky. But we came up with a much neater scheme that they ignored.
I will be putting in a submission in a couple of weeks, but if you simply want to object now, do so by clicking HERE.
Brexit isn’t just politics -; it’s jobs and prosperity
The political soap opera part of Brexit will resume on 14 November, the first of some very long days and nights as we debate and try to amend the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. I happen to think that Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer is doing an excellent job in exposing the hopelessness of the Government’s position and winning concessions. I wish he were our man in Brussels rather than David Davis.
But while the Government falls apart, business and industry is making plans for a hard Brexit -; and who can blame them. This was brought home to me when I met the Commercial Broadcasters Association recently. COBA represents the hundreds of TV channels that are outside the main networks like the BBC, from Disney to Discovery.
But like the BBC they choose to make their home in West London, especially H&F. And from here they dominate the European market -; transmitting channels across the other 27 countries. It is a £4 billion industry employing hundreds of skilled staff and boosting our exports.
Once we leave the EU all this may end as the companies have to seek licences abroad and, to qualify, move their operations there.
This is nothing like the scale of loss we will see in banking and other service industries but it is close to home and indicative of the disaster that Brexit will bring to London’s economy in particular.
And there is a personal cost to Brexit
Unbelievably the Government has still not moved to reassure EU nationals about their future post-Brexit. This is unforgiveable and it is doubtful that anything Theresa May now says, given the weakness of her own position and reliance on the suppo
rt of hard Brexiters, will carry weight.
But EU27 nationals are not isolated, they are part of families, communities and the economy here. So if you are an EU national or are related to one, can I ask you to complete this short survey? It will be helpful to me in arguing the case in Parliament, and also to know the strength of feeling locally.
Heathrow not cleared for take off
A year after giving the green light to the third runway, the Government’s plans are in a mess. New figures show Heathrow expansion would be less profitable for the UK economy than a second runway at Gatwick, and that it is virtually impossible for a bigger Heathrow to meet environmental targets. So they are having to consult again. Feel free to respond, and give no quarter.
Where have all the Post Offices gone?
Four of them to be precise. We know the main office on Shepherds Bush Green has gone into Westfield, since it was evicted. But the sub offices in St Ann’s road, Media Village and now Fulham Palace Road are all ‘temporarily’ closed.
I went to talk to staff and customers to see what the Westfield effect has meant. As predicted, many long-standing customers especially the elderly and disabled are not prepared to brave the shopping centre and are forced to go further afield.
So I met with Post Office Ltd and reminded them of their promise to look for an alternative site around the Green as well as replacements for the suspended offices. Their answer was that no business had come forward so far. But they made this offer. They would advertise on their site to get people who want to run Post Offices in this area to apply. So if you do know of anyone, or of a business that has room for a couple of counters, please let me know.
Being useful in Parliament
I know this is a zombie Parliament and the sooner it is over the better, but in the meantime I am trying to make myself useful.
Last week I renewed my attempt to get better standards of product safety in the wake of the Shepherds Bush and Grenfell Tower fires. With the support of Which? and the London Fire Brigade I feel we are getting somewhere on the regulation of white goods. But there are many other post-Grenfell issues that need pursuing, not least on external cladding but also the care being given to the survivors. Shockingly only 10% have got permanent new homes and two thirds may spend Christmas in B&B hotels.
Last week was the anniversary of the destruction of the Calais refugee camp, which I visited before and after. H&F and Alf Dubs were major supporters of the relief efforts, so I co-sponsored a debate in Parliament. Sadly, there are children sleeping rough around several of the Channel ports who have a legal right to come to the UK but who are subject to police violence, trafficking and who put themselves at risk by jumping lorries.
Another anniversary we debated was 100 years of the Balfour declaration. The Government has used it as an opportunity to invite Benyamin Netanyahu to London to celebrate the event. But for millions of Palestinians under occupation for 50 years or still exiled from their homes after 70 years it is a continuing tragedy.
Being useful in Hammersmith
Last week I did at least some of the marathon Thames walk to raise money for the local Law Centre. The Law Centre is one of the last places you can go for free legal advice, so I am delighted that H&F Council is finding them new premises in Hammersmith Library in the New Year. The Centre hopes to be able to expand its range and volume of work, but can only do that with extra funds. So if you are minded to assist, you can still sponsor me HERE. After all you may need their advice one day.
And you can help one of my other favourite local charities just by voting. The Upper Room has been selected by the AVIVA Community Fund to win £5,000 towards the salary costs of their part-time cook. He creates over 26,000 delicious three-course meals, using surplus food donations in order to feed the homeless and those living in poverty. Please spare a couple of minutes to register on the AVIVA website and cast your 10 votes to help them win this money.
—– Breaking News —–
Just as I was finishing writing this Enews, it was announced that Hammersmith & Fulham Council believes it has secured a deal to stop the demolition of 750 affordable homes in West Ken, which the Tories sold to a private developer for next to nothing.
Council Leader, Stephen Cowan, has written to all the residents of the West Ken and Gibbs Green estates announcing that the estates could return to Council control.
Dave Hill has written an article on the announcement, and I’ll write more about this in my next newsletter.