Yesterday Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the proposed plan for Shaping a Healthier Future (SAHF) in NW London, which has been opposed by campaigners for the last 7 years, has been halted. Ealing Hospital has suffered cruel and heartless cuts, with its children’s A&E, its maternity ward, and urology departments all shut down. In what will justifiably be seen as a victory for NHS campaigners, Matt Hancock said that NHS England ‘no longer supports’ the plan.
This has been a long and hard-fought campaign by local activists and national organisations like Keep Our NHS Public. The years of tireless and determined campaigning by Hammersmith & Fulham and Ealing residents, Save Our Hospitals Hammersmith & Fulham, Save Our Hospitals Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham Labour Council, Ealing Council and Labour MP Andy Slaughter, should be an example to all that campaigning does work and that tenacity can be rewarded.
A spokesperson from Save Our Hospitals Hammersmith and Fulham made the following announcement last night:
“It’s not been easy taking on a well-funded posse of spin doctors, management consultants and political ideologues but many thousands of people have done just that and after a 7-year fight, we’ve stopped a closure plan that was downright dangerous. Everyone has done their bit. Ealing Save Our NHS has distributed a quarter of a million leaflets, held protests, attended carnivals, organised parties, lobbies, petitions, car convoys and much more to spell out the truth. On the other side huge amounts of NHS money was spent on public relations staff and glossy leaflets to pretend that our health would mysteriously be improved if they closed A&E’s and hundreds of beds. It didn’t work.”
Labour MP for Hammersmith, Andy Slaughter had this to say,
“Shaping Healthier Future was the biggest hospital closure programme in the history of the NHS with the loss of two major hospitals… abandoning Shaping Healthier Future is a victory for the people of Hammersmith, Save Our Hospitals campaigners and for our Labour Council.”
Since the government first announced SAHF and their plans to cut nine major hospitals in North West London down to five, Ealing Save Our NHS has been campaigning with many others. SAHF wasted tens of millions of pounds on management consultants.
It is important to remember that this disastrous SAHF plan has seen the closure of two local A&Es, (Central Middlesex and Hammersmith), as well as the closure of Ealing A&E to children. As a direct consequence, waiting times for Type 1 urgent A&E visits increased greatly. Ealing Hospital’s maternity department was also closed, forcing Ealing mothers to travel long distances and negatively effecting continuity of care for many.
Despite this health bosses continue to defend the indefensible. Mark Easton, the head of the North West London Clinical Commissioning Groups, in announcing the death of SAHF has now claimed that maternity care and emergency paediatric care have improved. This is certainly not the view of local parents whose services have closed. Ealing Hospital remains seriously underfunded and in crisis. But there is now some hope, the short-sighted plan underlying all these cuts has gone and now the focus should be on calling for proper funding and restoration of local health services.
Dr Tony O’Sullivan, Co-Chair of Keep Our NHS Public:
“This is a very important victory for the people of Ealing and Hammersmith & Fulham. Campaigners must be proud of themselves for standing up for the NHS and their local communities for 7 long years – with integrity, skill and huge impact. Campaigners won the local councils to their side and refused to give in to the irresponsible plans of ‘Shaping A Healthier Future’ in North West London. Well done and thank you. The battles are not over. We are with you in your fight to restore the damage done and win back maternity and children’s services in Ealing Hospital.”
This is a moment for health campaigners to celebrate despite the fact that millions of pounds have been wasted and that there has been 7 years of uncertainty for residents. There are still huge problems: there are £30m primary & community cuts planned for Hammersmith and Fulham but, buoyed by this victory, Keep Our NHS Public will carry on campaigning to win back a well-functioning and comprehensive NHS for the good of all.