Captions are provided in the video above. The full transcript is below
Rob Davidson: The NHS is in crisis. After 6 years of Austerity, services have been cut across the country, frontline staff have been lost, hospitals have been shut down, and now one of the new ways for government cuts to be brought through it seems is something called Sustainable Transformation Plan or STPs. Now that sounds like a horrible bureaucratic process but here in Ealing Town Hall, almost 400 people have turned up because they’re really concerned about how the Sustainable Transformation Plans from their NHS are being pushed through in secret and look set to shut down hospitals, A&Es, maternity wards, lose jobs, beds and loss of services for their community.
Cllr Julian Bell: When we were asked to sign up to the Sustainable Transformation Plan for North West London, we were told that there would be some funding for community health services and integration of health and social care services and we’re all in favour of that but hidden away in the small print and in the appendices were proposals to downgrade, effectively close, both Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals. And also to close the A&E’s at both Ealing, first of all, and then secondly at Charing Cross hospital. So, We’ve been campaigning for some 5 years now against that proposal, there’s no way that we’re going to sign up to an STP that proposes the closure of our local A&E’s and hospitals. So for us it was absolutely, no. We won’t sign up to these. Eh, there’s increasing pressure on our A&E’s already. We’ve had two closed at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex and it’s already clear that when those closed, performance and the waits for people to get into A&E increased and the performance got worse. So, we’re concerned that deaths will happen. People have to travel longer and there’s too much pressure on those A&E’s. We can’t lose 2 more.
Question: Tonight we’ve heard local people telling us about all the services that are being affected at the moment. There was maternity, people with learning disabilities, mental health issues, social care, geriatric care, stroke, intensive care. It seems to be across the board. You mentioned A&E but is there more going on?
Cllr Julian Bell: We’ve already had our children’s ward closed at Ealing, we’ve had our maternity unit closed at Ealing. So that means that sick children, pregnant women, have to go much further to travel, to give birth, outside of the borough now. When the A&E’s were closed a key group of people that go to our A&E’s are those with mental health challenges and there needs to be a proper service for those with mental health at an A&E. So, again, there are many, many people that are going to be impacted by this closure. We’ve got an increasing elderly population and we need to make sure that they have those A&E services that are accessible and that they’re not having to travel a long way to get to them and families that are supporting their sick relatives can also give the necessary support to people in acute care.
Question: What do you think could be done to improve this STP process or what needs to happen to change it in order to make it workable?
Cllr Julian Bell: Well I think nationally, STP’s are being done in a very secretive way; that was certainly my experience as a local council leader. It was all kind of done in secret. There is no engagement, or real engagement, with local people and with local political representatives: be they from councils or members of Parliament. It’s clear that you have to have that proper engagement with communities before you can come up with plans that are really sustainable. It’s a cost-cutting exercise and I think until that issue of cost cutting and financial sustainability of the NHS is addressed, you’ll never solve the problem. And I think that nettle is what’s got to be grasped and I think when that happens, then we might be able to look at what a sustainable health service in North West London might look like and certainly we don’t think that that could be the closure of 2 more A&E’s on top of the 2 that have already closed. We’re a growing population. We’re heading towards 350,000 people in Ealing and 400,000 people by 2030. People need proper acute health services and the only way that’s going to happen with is with more money.
Rob Davidson: So, one of the things that’s become quite clear tonight is the depth and breadth of services that are being affected by cuts and Austerity and that look set to be threatened by some of these Sustainable Transformation Plans. We’ve had local patients and activists talk about mental health care, social care, environmental concerns. We’ve had people talk about intensive care, A&E, maternity: the list is almost endless. And it comes from deep-rooted cuts to services that are being pushed through as part of these Sustainable Transformation Plans.
The British Medical Association said recently that Sustainable Transformation Plans, it’s a bit of a mouthful that, that they could have worked for good reform in the NHS but they are being pushed through without any funding to bring about meaningful change and instead it’s just a budget cutting exercise. Now, we’ve already had budget cutting exercises to both health care and social care, as well as most government departments. How can we have more cuts when we already know that we are underfunded and under resourced in our healthcare and social care across the UK? The NHS crisis looks set to continue.
Hopefully if people go along to meetings like this one, something can start to happen to combat that.