On Saturday 15 September more than 100 people joined a march against NHS cuts through Harlesden to the Central Middlesex Hospital (aka Park Royal Hospital).
Along with Ealing and Hammersmith Hospitals, Central Middlesex is set to lose its A&E department under proposals put forward by NHS North West London (NHSNWL). The deadline of the NHSNWL consultation “Shaping a Healthier Future” is 8 October.
Central Middlesex is a busy hospital, in an area with significant industry, close to Wembley Stadium, but already the A&E is closed at night. If the A&E closed permanently, patients from this area of Brent would have to travel to Northwick Park Hospital; patients travelling there at night report there are already long queues for admittance.
According to the Health Emergency campaign, the current “reconfiguration process” is driven by pressure to cut costs. NHSNWL faces an estimated £1 billion gap between resources and rising demand for treatment by 2015; it wants to cut £314m from hospital budgets over three years, and £297m from health commissioning budgets.
Its cuts plans could mean 1,750 job losses in the next 12 months and 5,600 job losses by 2015. The closure of A&E units undermines the very viability of a hospital: “history shows that the closure of an A&E is very often the prelude to a process of rundown of other services, and even closure of the whole hospital”, says Health Emergency.
The lively demonstration of local trade unionists, Labour councillors, the anti-cuts group Brent Fightback, Navin Shah AM, and residents, finished up in front of the hospital itself, where it was met by a group of cleaners contracted to G4S who are among those who will lose their jobs if the A&E closes.
The march in Brent was smaller than that for Ealing A&E on the same day. While the Labour group on Brent Council (which it runs) are supporting the campaign for Central Middlesex, the Council has not put as many resources into campaigning that Ealing and Hammersmith Councils have done.
Ealing Council has sent leaflets to every household in the borough, and funded public meetings; they were rewarded by a march of more than 1,000.
• Figures taken from “North West London’s NHS Under the Knife”, Health Emergency report written by John Lister, commissioned by Brent, Ealing and Harrow TUCs, June 2012:
• Photos of the march: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11722019@N03/sets/72157631544572384/
• Brent Fightback: http://brentfightback.blogspot.co.uk/