The Imperial College NHS Trust chief executive Dr Tracey Batten and North West London collaboration of clinical commissioning groups chief officer Clare Parker have challenged Hammersmith and Fulham council leader Stephen Cowan over inaccurate and misleading claims about Charing Cross Hospital.
A recent letter from Cllr Cowan to all of the borough’s residents says that ‘NHS bosses have re-launched plans to close Charing Cross’ as part of the north west London sustainability and transformation plan (STP).
In their joint response, Dr Batten and Ms Parker point out that there have never been any plans to close Charing Cross Hospital and that the STP actually makes a clear commitment that there will be no reduction in Charing Cross’s A&E department or wider services within the lifetime of the plan – that runs until April 2021.
They also highlight the recent £2.5 million investment in urgent and emergency care services and theatres at Charing Cross.
The letter goes on to say that it’s more important than ever for the NHS and local authorities to work closely together.
We are writing to express our concern at your leaflet ‘Save Charing Cross Hospital – stand with us to fight the latest closure plan’ (attached), which you circulated with council tax updates to the residents of your borough this month. This material made a number of incorrect and misleading claims about the future of Charing Cross Hospital which is likely to cause significant, unnecessary distress to patients and staff.
As you will be fully aware, there have never been any plans to close Charing Cross Hospital.
You will also know that, far from “re-launching” proposals for changes at Charing Cross, the North West London Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) made a clear commitment that there will be no reduction in Charing Cross’s A&E department or wider services within the lifetime of the plan (that runs until April 2021). And we recently updated you on a £2.5 million investment in urgent and emergency care services and theatres at Charing Cross.
Like the rest of the NHS, we are working hard to respond to growing and changing demand, especially to support frail and elderly patients with a range of health problems. We also want to continue to offer the residents of NW London the very best in specialist health care, as we do, for example, at the Trust’s dedicated heart attack centre, stroke unit and major trauma centre. And this is all within the context of increasing financial pressure. It’s more important than ever that the NHS and local authorities work closely together to develop better and more integrated ways to help local people stay as healthy as possible and to get fast access to the right care when and where they need it.
As such, we do believe health and care services need to continue to change along the lines set out in the service strategy for NW London, agreed in 2013 following a full public consultation. We made further commitments through the STP that we will work jointly with communities and councils to design new models of care as set out in the strategy and that we will first progress and test new out-of-hospital models before looking to reduce acute hospital capacity.
It is difficult to understand why the Council would choose to spend significant sums of public money fighting ‘closure plans’ that do not exist and when your NHS partners have clearly set out that service changes over at least the next five years will be focused on providing better ways of helping local people stay healthy and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions or long stays.
As such, through this letter, we are raising a formal complaint with you regarding this publicity material and its content which we believe has clearly breached the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, specifically around objectivity and even-handedness. We request that you stop any further promotion of this leaflet and publicly retract your misleading claims. Further details on the grounds for our complaint are attached.
We will be making this response publicly available as part of the effort now required to reassure residents, patients and our staff that Charing Cross Hospital continues to be a vital part of the Trust and the NHS in NW London, and that we are continuing to invest in its future.