Closing stroke centre ‘will put lives at risk’

Wednesday July 11, 2012

cchClumping two specialist stroke units within a stones throw of each other in central London – while shutting west London’s premier facility – risks putting lives at risk a flagship council has warned today.

NHS plans to close the specialist stroke centre at Charing Cross Hospital in Fulham, along with four A&E units in west London, will leave residents dangerously far away from emergency care and ‘puts lives at risk’, according to Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s community care cabinet member, Cllr Marcus Ginn.

“Moving the world-class stroke unit at Charing Cross to St Mary’s in Paddington is madness,” added Cllr Ginn. “For people having a stroke, speed of treatment is vital.”

NHS bosses have stressed the need to site hyper-acute stroke units (HASUs) evenly across the capital to minimise journey times. Yet this new plan moves the west London HASU away from the major centres of population and towards the existing central London unit at UCL, putting two of the capital’s five specialist stroke units on the same road – just 1.7miles away from one another.

Experts from H&F Council’s transport team say some residents will be more than 30 minutes by ambulance from their nearest HASU creating stroke ‘black-spots’ where expert care is dangerously far away.

“Closing the stroke unit at Charing Cross means people from Hammersmith, Ealing and Chiswick will have to travel up to six miles to St Mary’s or Northwick Park in Harrow, along some of the most congested roads in London.

“For people living in Fulham and Putney, the picture is even worse. The nearest specialist stroke unit will be at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, over an hour away.”

However, the NHS business case fails to analyse how much longer ambulance journey times will be if the Charing Cross centre is closed. H&F Council says this is further evidence that the public consultation on the plans is deeply flawed.

Read previous stories on local objections to the proposals.

The current HASU at Charing Cross has achieved huge success in reducing stroke deaths and lauded as a centre of excellence in the NHS’s own consultation document.

Four A&Es to close
The chances of getting speedy treatment for a stroke will be further diminished by the proposals to close four A&E departments in west London. NHS research shows the five remaining A&E sites is the combination that would add most time to journeys. For some residents it would mean ambulances would take more than 30 minutes and car journeys would take up to 54 minutes.

“We support the arguments in favour of creating specialist centres like the one at Charing Cross,” says Cllr Ginn. “However, we think the proposal to close the Charing Cross stroke unit and four A&E departments is less about clinical need and more about preparing to sell off the site to balance the books.”

Charing Cross up for sale?
H&F Council is warning that closure of the stroke unit and the A&E department at Charing Cross will be the final step towards the complete closure and sale of the hospital. Over recent years, many of the major specialisms that have made Charing Cross one of the country’s leading teaching hospitals have been closed, including vascular and orthopaedic surgery and neurosurgery.

“The people of west London are mobilising to resist this slash-and-burn madness,” says Cllr Ginn. “More than 3,000 people have signed our petitions and sent in their own personal stories to show how important these acute hospital services are to local people. I urge everyone in west London to join our fight to save these precious services.”


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