NHS NW London A&E Closures and the IRP – June 2013

NHS NW London A&E Closures and the IRP

The so-called Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) has been asked by Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt MP for its opinion on the NHS decision to close 4 of the 9 A&E units in NW London. The units to close are at Ealing, Central Middlesex, Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals. Ealing Council’s Health and Adult Social Services Panel unanimously voted for the referral to the Secretary of State in March 2013.


I am indebted to Colin Standfield’s excellent research on the IRP’s rubber stamping of the NHS NE London’s decision to close the A&E unit at King George Hospital, Goodmayes (Redbridge)


According to ‘Ealing Today’ the IRP review is likely to present its report in September 2013.  The IRP members involved are likely to be past, present and/or future NHS staff or consultants. Some odd kind of independence that.  

IRP’s terms of reference are unlikely to include a phrase like ‘..the wishes of the general public..’. The major ‘test’ is likely to be whether the proposed changes ‘will enable the provision of safe, sustainable and accessible services.’ IRP Chair is Lord Ribeiro who worked as an NHS consultant for 29 years. He was ennobled in 2010 and has only voted once voted against the Government.


Colin recommends that activists persuade groups who did not lobby against the changes during the flawed 2012 consultation to make representations. He also feels that we should all make as much noise as possible about the distortion of the survey results –NHS claiming 17,022 responses when the true figure was about 4,550.  You can call the IRP on 020 7389 8046 and email at [email protected]. There’s also more information at www.ealing.gov.uk/soh


Child Heart Surgery Reform U-Turn

Controversial plans to reform children’s heart surgery have been suspended as the decision was apparently, based on a ‘flawed analysis’. The plan was to concentrate surgery in fewer bigger centres. This involved closing units at Leeds General Infirmary, Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and the Royal Brompton in London. Surgery now continues at these seemingly doomed surgical units. This is convenient for the Leeds unit as a High Court judge recently quashed the NHS decision to stop surgery there.


Informed observers had noted that the seven chosen centres (before the u-turn) were largely located in the western half of England leaving a large swathe of the east, from Newcastle to London, without a child heart surgery centre.


Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group (ECCG) Fails to Impress

I attended the ECCG Governing Body meeting on 22 May 2013. For budget year April 2013 to March 2014, no finalised budget exists. 60% of all NHS patient expenses in Ealing will be processed through the ECCG – a spend of £481million. 27 people sat around a very big table and 20 of them did not say a word.  On performance, red flags exist for cancer screening, meeting A&E targets, mental health referrals to therapies, mixed sex wards, serious incidents at the Imperial College Healthcare Trust, teenage conception rates and child immunisation



ECCG announced in April 2013 that it would be ‘commissioning or buying health and care services our residents need including elective/planned hospital care (operations), rehabilitation care, urgent and emergency care, community health services, mental health services and learning disability services’.


US/EU Trade Deal Threatens NHS

Ex-NHS doctor and crossbench peer Lord Owen and researcher Linda Kaucher have both recently warned that a US and EU trade deal could lead to unprecedented private sector competition in the NHS. The US/EU Free Trade Agreement will ‘dismantle hurdles to trade in goods, services and investment’ and ‘make regulations and standards compatible on both sides’. So any EU or US company can pitch to the NHS for doing your hip operation or removing that tumour. If foreign multi-nationals feel that they are being excluded from any invitation to tender they will have statutory rights to go to law and complain about it.


It’s no wonder, according to researcher Social Investigations, that over 60 MPs and 142 peers are connected to companies involved with national and international private healthcare companies.


Sir David Nicholson Should Keep His Mouth Shut

Disgraced ‘retiring’ NHS supremo Nicholson – the man recently implicated in the needless deaths of 1,200 patients in Staffordshire – is refusing to go quietly. He blames all the current NHS ills on politicians. He takes credit for putting doctors and nurses in charge of the new NHS. It’s a bit like putting tube drivers and tube maintenance engineers in charge of running London Underground.


More Nicholson screw-ups are coming to light. ‘The Economist’ has just reported that £74 million worth of Tamiflu – the anti-flu drug – has had to be thrown away because the NHS was unsure  whether it had been stored properly. He was also apparently behind spending £60 million in ‘bribes’ to encourage hospitals to adopt ‘hopeless’ IT systems. Mr Nicholson oversaw some £11 billion worth of failed NHS IT systems.


He has also publicly blamed the Treasury for the widespread use of gagging orders by hospitals. In the last seven years some £2 million has been secretly paid out to some 50 staff, some of whom presumably were whistle blowers.


It’s difficult to find any informed observer who believes that the approach taken in the ‘Nicholson Challenge’ (sounds like a reality show or a game show) to secure better value at lower cost is in any way viable or sustainable.  


Methinks Mr Nicholson should shut up, see out his time and then go home and spend more time with his money.


NHS Authorise Bounty Childcare Products Company Sales Staff  to Sell To New Mothers in Postnatal Hospital Wards

The National Childbirth Trust and Dr Margaret McCartney, a Glasgow GP, have both recently expressed anger that some NHS Hospitals allow Bounty sales staff access to new mothers on the ward. Bounty sales staff grill the mothers for their personal details which Bounty sells on to commercial interests. 168 NHS Trusts are being paid up to £5.50 per baby born for this access.  Bounty claims to be the UK’s leading parenting club (whatever that might mean). The company was founded in 1959 by an advertising executive. Bounty runs two web sites, neither of which states whether the company is a charity or for profit. Presumably the company exists purely in the ether as no terrestrial postal address is volunteered anywhere on its web sites.


Dr McCartney is also up in arms about the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). RCGP has apparently endorsed GPs handing out a book of advertisements  called ‘Emma’s Diary’ to pregnant women. The diary contains 119 pages of advertisements and just 25 pages of editorial.


40% Fewer District Nurses Now than in 2003

A recent study by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) points out that with so many fewer District Nurses patients are stranded in hospitals for days.  The study found a strong link between lengths of stay in hospital and quality of care closer to home. Britain lags behind France, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Norway and Sweden in long stay/community care quality.


Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP Attacks GPs and Says ‘It’s All Labour’s Fault’

Acting true to his public relations background Jeremy Hunt is going to extreme lengths to deflect criticism of the stalling NHS revolution away from the Tory-led Coalition Government.  As private healthcare companies sneak into the NHS under the radar, the NHS 111 telephone service failures, the over heated A&E units, the war against GPs and Labour’s changes to GP contracts in 2004 – are all anybody’s fault but the Coalition Tories.


And Now a League Table for Doctors

League tables are scheduled to be published beginning in July 2013 rating NHS doctors on how their patients fared after surgery or treatment. However not all clinicians want to play ball here and 92 surgeons have so far vetoed the publication of ‘their’ data. Jeremy Hunt is now threatening to name and shame these surgeons.