As I said at the rally to celebrate saving the Whittington A& E – we have to keep this in focus and remain eternally vigilant. The coalition government called a halt to the reconfiguration process (hurrah) virtually as soon as we were in Government but we need to be on the ball.
To this end I met with the Minister, Simon Burns (hospital finance and performance) yesterday to make sure we all know what’s happening. The Minister had brought in all the key players from the Chair of GP commissioning to Rachel Tyndall (who chaired the review and was key at the public meeting I organised during the campaign to save the A&E).
Ok – so the key things are that – phew – the review has started! The Minister assured me (and Cllrs Winskill and Butcher who accompanied me) that unlike under the last government who claimed closing the A&E was a local decision (whereas we know it had nothing to do with local peoples’ wishes) this time it would be genuinely local as the Government edict imposed that as a duty on the North London Sector Review panel. And there are clear lines of accountability.
For the first time I heard with my own ears North London Sector admit that there had been faults in the previous process – which is a start – given the continual denial of all the issues local people raised. The litany was clear: accessibility (no one can get to the Royal Free), the out of hours GP services to take the non-A&E cases that currently go to A&E don’t exist; the Royal Free couldn’t cope with an extra 35,000 people (even if they could get there) and so on and so on, no clinical evidence, etc – all the very good cases local people made.
Watch this space – and if you hear anything too – let me know immediately!