Full credit to Rachel Tyndall (Chair of the North London Central Review Panel) for sending me the NCL Strategy Plan for our local health services. I had heard that these had been submitted to NHS London and asked for a copy – and it was given to me virtually immediately. I have circulated the document for information.
The content is of concern. First let me say – this is a long, technical document – in which the arguments are laid out for the configuration of health services across five boroughs and between five hospitals: Barnet, Royal Free, North Mids, UCLH and the Whittington. Ms Tyndall has said that a more accessible version for public consumption will be provided in due course.
In the appendix, are laid out, seven ‘scenarios’. This is where the fight to Save the Whittington A&E will come – if these are the ‘options’ that come for public consultation next autumn.
The seven ‘scenarios’ demonstrate different configurations between the five hospitals as to what services will be provided from each hospital. It is about a total provision – obviously – not just A&E. Suffice to say that four out of the seven ‘scenarios’ show an end to 24/7 A&E at the Whittington. Three show retention of 24/7 A&E.
Interestingly two of the ‘scenarios’ show a reduction to 16 hours A&E – however – from the minutes of the Board Meeting of the Council of Governors of the Whittington it is quite clear that the the 16 hour A&E is not a real option. The actual wording from the minutes of the meeting of the Council of Governors of the Whittington reads (and I quote directly):
Very importantly NCL and the Whittington have ruled out an option where the Whittington has an A&E with reduced opening time eg 16hours per day. This leaves options where either the full 24 hour A&E is retained or there is no A&E at all. The Whittington might then have an urgent care centre.
So – I don’t know why NCL have included two options showing a 16 hour A&E as clearly that has already been ruled out. This makes me wonder if options have been put in that are not really and truly under consideration but are there to make two of the options look better than they are – as they seem to offer some A&E rather than none. I will seek clarification on this seemingly conflicting evidence.
The greater problem for all of us fighting to save the Whittington A&E – is that as long as there are any ‘scenarios’ that don’t retain 24 hour A&E – we are in jeopardy. So – we need the public consultation next autumn to simply ask those who use the Whittington whether we want to retain the 24 A&E service or whether we would prefer the alternative range of provision at the polyclinic, GP extra hours, urgent care centre etc favoured by NCL and the Trusts.
Anything else opens the way to closure of A&E at the Whittington.
At this point – it is a battle to make sure whatever options finally come forward for consultation- that if local people want to retain a 24 hour A&E at the Whittington – it is retained!