Plans to shut NHS hospitals could trigger a wave of A&E closures

  • Under the proposals, billions of pounds are to be diverted from hospital budgets to help pay for better care homes 
  • There are fears that the plans could lead to the closure of medical wards 
  • Since 2007, eight English A&Es have been closed
  • Ministers are due to approve the ward closures by April 21


Controversial plans to shut NHS hospital wards across the country – which could trigger a fresh wave of A&E closures – are quietly being drawn up by health bosses, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Billions of pounds will be diverted from hospital budgets to help pay for better care homes and home help under the proposals, which are set to be signed off by Ministers within weeks.

But according to official plans seen by this paper, it will force the imminent closure of emergency medical wards, surgical wards and dementia wards.

Frontline doctors also fear the massive shake-up will cause more A&E departments to close – at a time of rapidly rising demand for emergency care.

Since 2007, eight English A&Es have been closed or downgraded. Another 14 are known to be under threat and last year there were a record 3.8million emergency admissions.

The £3.8billion Better Care Fund is meant to ensure that the sick and elderly only end up in hospital when they really need to be there and stop them staying in a ward for longer than necessary



But NHS England calculations have shown that the scheme will ‘transfer’ at least £2billion a year from the health service budget. 

Ministers are due to approve the ward closures by April 21. One leading A&E doctor warned last night that the plans would ‘break the system’, leaving emergency patients without beds.

Dr Chidi Ejimofo said handing so much NHS money to social care was ‘like robbing Peter to pay Paul’, adding: ‘I think there’s every chance this could lead to a new wave of A&E closures.’

Elderly: Under the proposals, billions of pounds will be diverted from hospital budgets to pay for care homes

The consultant, who last year helped save A&E at Lewisham Hospital in South-East London from the axe, went on to say: ‘These plans are extremely worrying given that hospitals are already in a precarious state. We are on the edge of an unmitigated disaster.’

The Government has tried to deny that the Better Care Fund amounts to an NHS cut – and continues to insist it has no policy of shutting A&Es.

But NHS England has claimed that the fund will lead to a 15 per cent drop in emergency admissions after it kicks in next April, and GP-led clinical commissioning groups, which deliver services, have been asked to model ‘savings’ in their budget accordingly.

They have been told to ‘clearly identify where the NHS savings will be realised’ – and will have to show where they could each make an estimated £16million worth of cuts.

Organisations bidding for the fund’s cash are also required to state how they think hospital services will have been ‘reconfigured’ in five years’ time.

An NHS England PowerPoint presentation reminds the applicants of the need to convince staff and the public about the benefits of ‘major service changes as a result of five-year strategy plans and the Better Care Fund’.

But critics have warned that the money will simply disappear into council budgets.

Doctors have also claimed that its aims – while ‘laudable’ – are wildly optimistic.

Labour health spokesman Jamie Reed said: ‘David Cameron promised not to cut the NHS, but he is now raiding it to fill the holes his £2billion cuts have left in social care.’

But Care Minister Norman Lamb insisted: ‘This is not about “cuts” or taking money away from hospitals – it is about providing better joined-up care closer to home. The Better Care Fund is a major step to making this a reality.’

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Hospital campaigners: 'Don't fool with our NHS'

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Save Our Hospital members protest in eccentric costumes on April Fools' Day

Campaigners wear silly outfits to highlight this serious cause

‘Don’t fool with our NHS’ was the message from hospital campaigners who dressed up in silly outfits on April Fools’ Day.

Members of Save Our Hospitals protested in eccentric costumes, including Father Christmas and handmade designs, outside Charing Cross Hospital today but their message was serious.

The campaign continues to fight against NHS proposals to close A&Es and cut services at Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Ealing and Central Middlesex hospitals.

Desiree Cranenburgh, who has worked in social services for 40 years, said: “This is April Fools’ Day but this is not a time to fool about with our health. It’s serious. We need to get together as a community and help save our local health care.

“Our main thing is getting the patient voice heard, lots of us are patients and carers.

“We’re a growing group, we have tables in Chiswick, Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith. We’re still getting support. People still come to us because they can’t believe anyone would want to close a hospital down.”


Urgent Action at Health Scrutiny Committee 19 June 2013

Please join the Save Our Hospitals team outside Hammersmith Town Hall on Wednesday 19th June at 6:30pm in advance of the Health Scrutiny Committee.

We will be gathering outside the Town Hall and then following this up by attending the meeting, pharmacy where we will have the opportunity to ask questions. This is a vital time to keep up the campaigns momentum and Save Our Hospitals!