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Cllr Julian Bell: Ealing and Charing Cross A&Es are NOT saved

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In his latest political column Ealing Labour group leader, Councillor Julian Bell, argues that the Health Secretary's claim to have saved Ealing A&E was no more than spin:


When [Health Secretary] Jeremy Hunt announced in Parliament that A&Es would continue at Ealing and Charing Cross he claimed to be removing uncertainty, but his lack of clarity about what his comment, that they would be of "a different size and shape" meant, confirmed Steve Pound's observation that the "chamber was dizzy with spin".

In fact it took just a few hours for the spin to unravel. Dr Mark Spencer the Medical Director for the Shaping a Healthier Future proposals let the cat out of the bag when he appeared on TV to say that the A&Es at Ealing and Charing Cross would be smaller and "not likely to receive blue light" ambulances.

Since the announcement was made two months ago I have been doing a lot of digging around to find out what the "A&Es" at Ealing and Charing Cross will be like in the future under the agreed proposals and if there is anything different about them as a result of Jeremy Hunt "saving" them. Having studied the Keogh review and had two meetings with Ealing CCG it is clear to me that the "A&Es" will be absolutely no different now, after Hunt's announcement, than they would have been under the original SAHF proposals other than a name change.

They will be nothing more than minor injury units managed by GPs talking on the telephone to Consultants at proper A&Es, not able to receive blue light ambulance cases as was always planned under SAHF, and are now called A&Es only because it suits the Health Secretary's political purposes.

This is a monumental lie and betrayal by Jeremy Hunt and the Tories. Locally Angie Bray MP and Tory Cllr David Millican at first were taken in by their own Party's spin. Millican still has a tweet on his page dated 30 October saying that Hunt is "guaranteeing Ealing & Charing Cross A&E with 24/7 blue light admissions" and Bray tweeted that "Whatever he says" speaking of Sir Bruce Keogh "an A&E must have to be an A&E."

They soon however fell into line with the national Tory Party lie claiming that Ealing and Charing Cross A&Es were "saved" on their local Tory leaflet distributed to local residents.

I regret this very much as I believe the cross party campaign locally prior to Hunt's announcement made it much stronger. We could go on together and campaign for a real A&E at Ealing and Charing Cross with blue light admissions but the Tories locally have sold local people down the river and have taken their orders from Tory HQ.

All is not lost yet though and we will campaign alone or with whoever will join us. There are five years before the decision is finally enacted, although I fear its capacity as a self fulfilling prophecy will mean the crunch comes earlier than that. In fact I am told the crunch for Central Middlesex and Hammersmith A&Es will be in the coming summer. Plans to close them in June are already well advanced and I have already put on record my strong opposition to this. We are currently in an all year round A&E crisis with Northwick Park the worst performing A&E in the country so it would be clinically unsafe to do this so precipitously not to mention stark raving mad whilst this crisis continues.

The Tories have always surprised me with their boldness and audacity in treating the electorate with contempt as they try and push through unpopular policies that they have no democratic mandate for and which they screamed blue in the face they wouldn't do before they got elected. What they are currently doing to the NHS fits this pattern well. Cameron in his 2006 Conference speech said "no more pointless and disruptive reorganisations" and that the "NHS was safe in his hands." The Tory 2010 manifesto stated "we will stop the forced closure of A&E and Maternity Wards." Cameron also told MPs in Parliament after his visit to Ealing Hospital in 2011 that "there are no plans to close the hospital."

Well now we know the truth and the people of Ealing have only one recourse left to them - to hit the government where it hurts in the ballot box at the local and European elections on the 22 May 2014 and at the General Election in May 2015.

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