Blind Councillor asks most searching questions: how NHS can close hospitals as NW London population "explodes"?

On 5th December I attended the NW London Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, chaired by Cllr Mel Collins from Hounslow. Mr Collins is nearly blind, but that doesn't stop him taking to task the Accountable Officer of the NW London STP, Clare Parker and her PR adviser, Christian Cubbitt! Councillors from Hammersmith, Westminster and Richmond (affected by NW London STP) took part and asked questions.

Cllr Collins chaired the meeting. And he didn't fail to give them, politely, a hard time. From the NHS Dr Susan Le Broy (a geriatrician), Clare Parker, Rob Larkin (AO for Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon) and Juliet Browne presented reports (here:

Christian Cubbitt was sitting on a spectator's chair behind Ms Parker, but was noticed by Cllr Collins.

In particular Mr Collins wanted proper evidence, not anecdotal evidence from pilot studies ("Vanguards"), of what impact the reduction in acute beds and removal of services at Ealing Hospital (ca 500 beds) will have on the existing population of Ealing, Harrow, and Hounslow, including Brentford (his ward) - all these residents are currently referred to Ealing Hospital. The NHS management team concentrated in their papers on the plans for the over 65 year-olds, and for diabetes patients (papers were about how new care pathways would keep them out of hospital), but what about all the younger or other patients? Moreover there is a huge increase in population planned in Ealing and Hounslow: new developments are nearing completion, others have planning permission and when redevelopment along the "Golden Mile" along the A4 is completed there will be 10,000s more patients. Mr Collins wanted to know why there seemed to be NO provision for that increased population?! This increase will impact on Hillingdon and West Mid hospitals. "It's going to explode!" said Collins.

Clare Parker protested that her team had a different interpretation of "population growth" (!?)

Collins asked her to go away and consult with her own team, with London Ambulance Service and with officers from the Local Authorities concerned to consider (1) the impact of closing Ealing Hospital on the entire existing population, and (2) the impact on the future, much bigger population after completion of redevelopments in west London boroughs. He asked her to produce a report for the March JHOSC meeting (date to be confirmed).

Secondly, in August the Royal College of Nursing wrote a letter to Cllr Collins complaining of changes to skills and working patterns required by the STP which nurses had had no hand in shaping and were not consulted about: Mr Collins said that the response from the NHS team was too vague and didn't answer specific points raised. He said: "It is critically important to get nurses' concerns taken seriously, as they will be the ones implementing the changes". Ms Parker claimed that there had been consultation with Royal Colleges, but didn't say whether specifically with RCN. She claimed that there is a generic issue of pressure on staff which is very difficult to mitigate. The NHS needs to balance quality, finance and performance. The future conversation is on "long term sustainability". Collins said that he would draft a response to the RCN and send it to JHOSC members. Dr LeBroy wanted to respond to the letter point by point. This was not a satisfactory response.