Last night’s Health Scrutiny meeting was as heated as expected, especially on changes to local A&Es and Imperial’s plans for the future of its sites, in particular Charing Cross. The Committee also discussed food banks and the Council’s proposed £6.5 million cuts from the Adult Social Care budget.
Three claims that Labour made before the local elections were refuted by local NHS experts and doctors. They confirmed that Charing Cross hospital will continue to have an A&E, the specification of which will be finalised once Sir Bruce Keogh’s report on future of emergency medicine is published.
They also confirmed that Charing Cross hospital will not be a GP led clinic, but will be staffed by both primary and secondary care clinicians with patients treated by the clinicians most suitable to their needs.
Finally they confirmed that Charing Cross hospital will have a £150 million new building that once built, and only then, will replace some of the existing buildings on the site. This £150 million is part of a wider £1.1 billion capital investment in healthcare across North West London.
With these important clarifications by the local NHS came increasingly angry and aggressive questioning by Labour Councillors, especially Council Leader, Stephen Cowan. His questioning consisted of repetitively asking questions, manipulating peoples’ words and cutting off respondents when he didn’t like the answers. He appeared to have no genuine interest in scrutinising local doctors about how these changes would be delivered to ensure the greatest benefit to local residents and other NHS users. His behaviour was inappropriate towards NHS public servants, a feeling shared by shocked local NHS doctors.
Andrew Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith, missed the majority of the meeting. His only contribution was to ask questions that had already been answered. Like Cllr. Cowan he seemed more interested in asking the questions than actually listening to the answers. It was hard to avoid the feeling that both were more interested in scoring cheap political points than actually partaking in a sincere scrutiny process.
The new Labour administration is approaching 150 days in office and had many more in opposition to develop alternative plans for local healthcare services. It has had time to find clinicians and experts to support their views, but it has failed to do so.
What is even more concerning, is that the new Labour administration’s, especially the Council Leader’s, attitude towards local NHS doctors and experts is putting at risk the ability of the Council to work with the NHS to improve integration of health and social care, coordinate public health and put in place the strategies desperately needed to prevent local people developing serious long term health conditions that are putting huge demand on our social care services.
If the new Council administration doesn’t find a way to work with the local NHS, instead of finding ways of closing the £6.5 million gap in adult social care funding, that gap will get much wider as people suffer from worst healthcare outcomes and require more NHS care and more local authority social care.
I understand why Andrew Slaughter wishes to keep kicking the political football of local NHS reforms, but Stephen Cowan needs to realise that he’s not fighting the local elections any more. He’s in administration now and needs to put local people first and find ways of working productively with the NHS.