Nurses today called for the suspension of a controversial programme of downgrading A&E and maternity units in west London amid concerns that patient care is deteriorating.
The Royal College of Nursing said the changes, which began with the closure of the casualty wards at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex hospitals last September, had caused a “predictable and negative impact for patients”.
It said the GP-led Shaping A Healthier Future programme had been introduced “the wrong way round”, as community services were not ready to deal with people no longer being treated in hospitals.
'Negative impact': nurses today called for the suspension of downgrading A&E at Northwick Park Hospital (Picture: Jeremy Selwyn)
The RCN said patients at the main A&E departments at Northwick Park and Ealing hospitals had repeatedly endured the longest waits in the country in the run-up to Christmas. Its intervention, in a submission to an inquiry set up by four councils, comes as moves to axe the maternity unit at Ealing were delayed for two months.
GPs there are to seek “further reassurance” that capacity exists at neighbouring labour wards before going ahead with the closure.
RCN London regional director Bernell Bussue said: “In practice, little seems to have been done to boost capacity elsewhere in the system to make up for closures. Proper replacement services, transition arrangements, funding and a workforce plan should have been in place before existing units were cut.
“The remainder of the Shaping A Healthier Future closures should be suspended until out of hospital capacity is properly expanded.”
Concerns raised by RCN members in west London include patients being “frightened and confused” by the replacement of A&E units by urgent care centres.
Requested hospice placements were not always granted, while nurses were “burned out and tired” and unable to get time off for study days. Cuts in the number of district nurses had placed an “unsafe and unmanageable strain” on those who remained.
A spokeswoman for Shaping A Healthier Future said: “We have always said it would take three to five years to implement the out of hospital improvements that our residents deserve.
“We are only in year one and we have already delivered weekend access to GP appointments, new community services to treat people closer to their homes and more joined-up working with social care. Over the next three years we will develop plans to build new hospitals — with A&Es — at [Ealing and Charing Cross] which better serve the needs of local people.”
Published: 29 January 2015
Updated: 16:49, 29 January 2015