27. North West London

What does the STP mean for my area?

Closure of Ealing Hospital A&E and the possible complete closure of the sites acute service (i.e. emergency care)

Closing the majority of Charing Cross hospital, leaving only 13% of the hospital remaining. 10 major services will be axed, including: 24/7 A&E, emergency surgery, intensive care and a range of complex emergency and non-emergency medical and surgical treatments. (continued in ‘further information’). Placing further strain on Northwick Park and St Mark’s Hospitals.

The closure of these hospitals acute sections would see 500 - 600 hospital bed losses. (Further statistics below)

8,000 NHS job cuts in the area

Following the closure of several North West London A&E departments, local hospitals have reported a considerable drop in performance standards. Only 60% of people were seen within the four hour A&E target waiting time. (Standards dictate that 95% of patients should be seen within this time limit)

The Centre for Health and the Public Interest has found that poor residents were much more likely to be affected by A&E downgrades or closure.

In official documents leaked to the HSJ and reported by the Independent, cost cutting measures for the North West London area will include:

  • Longer waiting times for elective care,
  • Closure of wards and theatres
  • Staffing cuts
  • Ending funding for some treatments and prescriptions
  • Delaying or avoiding funding newly approved treatments

For more information, see below.

What are the proposed aims of the STP?

  • To eliminate a projected 2020/21 deficit of £1.41 billion;
  • A shift of patient care from the acute setting to community setting;
  • Increased integration of health care;
  • To encourage healthy lifestyles;
  • To reduce health inequalities and unequal outcomes for the top three killers: cancer, heart diseases and respiratory illness;
  • To reduce unfair variation in the management of long-term conditions – diabetes, cardio vascular disease and respiratory disease;
  • Overall the STP aims to move care from an acute setting into the community.

Further information

The STP plan itself does not include details on how the deficit will be eliminated, the impact on bed numbers and workforce number changes.

Primary Care plans: The STP involves the development of a network of local service hubs, from which primary care and other community services can be delivered.

(Charing Cross Hospital: continued from above) The plan is that most of the cut services could be picked up by the community, although how this would work in practice remains unclear. 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”.

(Continued from above) The campaign group Save Our Hospitals says it has seen a North West London Delivery Plan for the STP, which claims:

  • The loss of 3,658 NHS jobs in north west London in 2017/18, rising to 7,753 job losses by 2020/21.
  • Almost 50,000 planned admissions and 222,370 outpatient appointments cut by 2020/21.
  • The loss of 500 to 600 hospital beds with the closure of Charing Cross and Ealing as major acute hospitals.
  • A reduction in A&E attendances by 64,175 in the next five years.
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Campaigners also claim the plans, which will save £1.4 billion from local health and social care services up to 2021, could leave the councils struggling to cope with the cost of paying for social care.

The 'Can we afford to close any more A&E departments?' report said: “North West London is further down the STP pathway than any other region in England and there are important lessons to learn.

“One is that in these high-density city areas the closures aggravate already existing health inequalities. Another is that the overall quality of emergency care, which is already deteriorating nationally, will be pushed to danger point and beyond if further closures such as those planned for North West London are proceeded with.”

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In June 2017 the HSJ reported on discussions between NHS Improvement and NHS England on what certain STP areas will be required to do to enable them to spend less money and remain within a budget known as a 'control total' for 2017/18. The target areas include North West London. The measures under discussion include the following:

  • Limiting the number of operations carried out by non-NHS providers so the funding stays within the NHS. Considerations differ between areas but include both limiting patients’ choice of providers, and reducing work which is outsourced by NHS trusts. In some cases it would require the NHS to find the capacity to carry out more operations.
  • Systematically drawing out waiting times for planned care, including explicit consideration of breaching NHS constitution standards. Some plan to target delays at specialties/areas where waits are currently lower than average.
  • Stopping NHS funding for some treatments, including extending limits on IVF, adding to lists of “low value” treatments, and seeking to delay or avoid funding some treatments newly approved by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence.
  • Closing wards and theatres and reducing staffing, while seeking to maintain enough emergency care capacity to deal with winter pressures.
  • Closing or downgrading services, with some considering changes to flagship departments like emergency and maternity - though these would normally take too long to deliver savings this year.
  • Selling estate and other “property related transactions”.
  • Stopping prescriptions for some items, as suggested by NHS Clinical Commissioners earlier this year.

The commissioners in the area told the HSJ that they have been told to examine “difficult decisions” and “think the unthinkable”, including modelling changes which are normally avoided as they are too unpleasant, unpopular or controversial.