Report Confirms Plans to Sell Off Charing Cross Site and Slash Services

Causing long running row between council and NHS bosses to escalate

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The clash between Hammersmith and Fulham Council and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust over the future of Charing Cross Hospital has escalated this week, with council leader Cllr Stephen Cowan accusing trust bosses of misuse of language and misleading the public.

The long running row re-ignited after the Guardian newspaper reported seeing details of plans to demolish the current hospital and sell off the vast majority of the "prime real estate" site. Charing Cross would then be replaced with a "local hospital" on just 13% of the site.

The Guardian reported: "Many of the officially published plans lacked precise detail about how local services would change, but internal supporting documents seen by the Guardian reveal the scale of the closures at the London site.

"The proposals claim much of the care currently offered at Charing Cross can be transferred to 'community settings' such as local GP services, but health campaigners and clinicians say the transformation could endanger patients.

"The documents include a map detailing how 13% of the current hospital site will remain, with the rest of its estate in central London sold off. The plan is to introduce the changes after 2021."

This would appear to vindicate fears expressed for several years by the council and Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter over the future of the hospital.

In April this year, the Trust's chief executive Dr Tracey Batten and North West London collaboration of clinical commissioning groups chief officer Clare Parker said they were raising a formal complaint over Cllr Cowan's "inaccurate and misleading" claims about Charing Cross Hospital. 

In a letter, they confirmed their commitment to Charing Cross and said that there had never been any plans to close the hospital and added that the Sustainability and Transformation Plan, or STP actually makes a clear commitment that there will be no reduction in Charing Cross's A&E department or wider services within the lifetime of the plan - which runs until April 2021.

You can read the letter in full on the Trust's website.

At the time, Cllr Cowan hit back, accusing them of "hiding the truth" about plans to close the hospital.

This week, following the report in the Guardian, he said they were stretching the definition of the word 'close' to the point where it misleads people. 

"It’s like demolishing someone’s house only to tell them they have in fact not lost their house – because they’ll be given a new garden shed which will be called their 'local house'," said.

According to the Guardian, the plans mean ending ten major services at Charing Cross – 24/7 A&E, emergency surgery, intensive care and a range of complex emergency and non-emergency medical and surgical treatments.

The remaining services would be a series of outpatient and GP clinics, X-ray and CT scans, a pharmacy and an urgent care centre for "minor injuries and illnesses".

Around 300 acute beds would be lost.

Cllr Cowan said: " That still constitutes the demolition and closure of Charing Cross hospital in its current form. No one would see what is left as a hospital in any generally accepted definition of the word. A 'local hospital' is a clinic. A class 3 A&E is an urgent care clinic.

"The facts are perfectly clear to us – North West London NHS published plans in 2013 to axe services at Charing Cross.

"Their letter of complaint reiterates that it’s still their intention to implement these plans. H&F Council has opposed these plans, and is proud to work with dedicated local residents to fight them."

A spokeswoman for North West London Collaboration of Clinical Commissioning Groups, meanwhile appeared to confirm Cllr Cowan's claims, saying: " We are still committed to taking forward changes as agreed by the secretary of state in 2013. We have been clear that we will have local services in place to meet demand and deliver the necessary services for patients before we make any changes to Charing Cross.

"Our current focus is on delivering those new and improved services for local people. We have been clear that no changes will be made before 2021 and that for Charing Cross we will bring forward a strategic outline case in the future which sets out the capital requirement for making these changes and that remains our intention.

"As we look at changes to Charing Cross hospital we will of course continue to work closely with the council and value their important input into these discussions."

Ironically, the new clash comes in the same week as the launch of a second series of the much praised series Hospital, focusing on the work of the hospitals within Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, including Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals.

The NHS in England is reportedly planning to sell off billions of pounds worth of land and property to free up cash through a plan called Project Phoenix.

Charing Cross, on a prime site close to the river, is thought to be one of five London hospitals identified in a recent government-commissioned review as being worth more than £1 billion.

We have asked Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust if they wish to make a further response.

June 23, 2017


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