Rupa Huq wants assurances from minister on potential hospital closure plans
Rupa Huq in parliamentary debate on health
Rupa Huq has this week secured a meeting with Minister for Health Ed Argar MP after raising concerns in Parliament over the future of Ealing Hospital in Parliament.
In a question directed at Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP on Tuesday (1 September ), the Ealing Central and Acton MP echoed the concerns of her constituents following the scaling back of Ealing hospital services and diversion of ambulances since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, measures that have been described as “temporary” by the North West London Health and Care Partnership.
She called on the Health Secretary to confirm that the closure of some of the Uxbridge Road-based hospital’s services would not become permanent and added that the closures could not spell the return of the ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ closure program “through the back door”, referring to the £500m plan to axe nearly half of A&E departments in west London that was scrapped in March 2019.
Mr Hancock said in response that he was continuing with “the investment into primary healthcare services that was part of the [Shaping a Healthier Future closure program], but not the rest of it.” He then offered Dr Huq and other west London MPs the opportunity to meet with the Minister for Health to discuss the matter forward.
Dr Huq told EalingToday.co.uk afterwards that although she was pleased to be offered the meeting, expected to take place later this month, she still had concerns about the continued impact of limiting Ealing services.
She said, “For years we lived with the threat of a massive NHS reorganisation programme looming over us that would have downgraded Ealing hospital out of all recognition. It was withdrawn before the election but now it just seems it is back again under the guise of Covid. I’m pleased Matt Hancock denied that this is the case and I look forward to getting further reassurances from his junior minister when I meet him with my fellow Ealing MPs.
“But I am deeply concerned that the Government is using the Covid-19 pandemic to prepare the ground for permanent A&E closures. At Ealing Hospital, there’s no emergency surgery of any kind at night. Trauma services are only available on Mondays and Fridays, which is of no use to anyone unless you have the good grace to injure yourself on Monday or Friday. And ambulances are still being diverted further afield to Northwick Park, a strategy that was, it will surprise no one to read, prioritised by the original Shaping a Healthier Future program.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that these closures are resulting in needless deaths. The Government can and should be doing better to ensure that Ealing Hospital is as fully operational as it can be during the pandemic.”
Dr Huq said that she and other Ealing MPs, including Virendra Sharma and James Murray, would use the meeting with Minister of State for Health Ed Argar MP to ensure west Londoners’ concerns were heard.
Eve Turner, Secretary of Ealing Save Our NHS, said: “Despite promises from the Government and health bosses that Ealing would have a fully functioning A&E, the Hospital now doesn't have 24/7 emergency surgery and blue ambulances are often being diverted elsewhere.”
And Virendra Sharma, MP for Ealing Southall, added, “My community of Ealing Southall is home to some of the worst health inequalities in London, and is right on the doorstep of Ealing Hospital, yet because services aren’t there aren’t running my constituents have to travel much further for help. People will die if this blue light divert remains, and so that is why I, along with my Ealing Labour colleagues, are calling for it to end.”
A spokesperson for north west London NHS said these changes are a temporary response to a national public health emergency, adding: “We will of course work with local people and stakeholders to explain the changes and understand their experiences of them.”
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September 6, 2020