Friday, 1 October 2010

Doubt over Homerton A&E future

Homerton A&E not busy enough to justify its existence?

This blogger - 20goto10 - left a comment on Blood and Property on Thursday which suggests that Homerton Hospital's accident and emergency department is a likely target for NHS cuts. You can find the original post here which was based on this Hackney Communist site's claim that with: "Cuts of up to 187 million over next three years in Hackney NHS; Homerton Hospital might shut down the Accident and Emergency, Stroke and Maternity Departments, replaced by smaller GP units, polyclinics."

In reply 20goto10 wrote:

Re: closure of the Homerton Emergency Department - it may be on the horizon in the next 5 years or so. The North-East quadrant of London has lots of Emergency Departments covering it (Newham, Royal London, Whittington and Whipps Cross are all close by just to mention a few).

NHS London is definitely looking to swing the axe, especially given the pressure from the Condems, and also because their plan to close the Whittington collapsed on the altar of an election promise by then-Health Secretary Andy Burnham. For many years now King George's in Ilford has had the sword hanging over it and it looks like it will fall for sure.

However, NHS London are still looking round for another victim. Emergency Departments (EDs, no longer called A&E) are expensive to run because of the staffing levels required and the other (non-Emergency Medicine) specialties who are required on-call in the hospital to see many of the patients. Unfortunately the powers-that-be that run hospitals at 100% bed capacity also think that an ED isn't pulling its weight unless it's bursting at the seams and looks like the Alamo every Friday night. The Homerton ED is not like that, partly because it is a very well-run department with out-of-hours GPs resident and partly because the workload simply isn't as bad as one might expect for Hackney (stabbings and shootings go straight to the Royal London).

This is a good thing for patients as it means doctors can spend a bit more time and thought on them, but shamefully also means that it isn't 'busy enough' to justify its existence. I have spoken to a few people in other hospitals (ED consultants) who expect the Homerton to be closed one day. However the Homerton staff of course strenuously deny this. Their case is strengthened by the fact that their department is going to be setting up the polyclinic on the 2012 Olympic site.

Personally I think it would be a disaster for Hackney if the Homerton ED were to close. The Save The Whittington campaign demonstrated (i) how a good publicity-generating campaign could be run and (ii) how people can force politician's hand by making them scared of losing votes. Hopefully if any plans to close the Homerton were to surface, this could be replicated locally.

Watch this space.

Today the Hackney Citizen reported: Hackney GPs and health watchdog warn new proposals will undermine NHS

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