Local families who have battled against the closure of Ealing Maternity Services were given fresh hope that there could be a rethink this Christmas. Campaigners had cause to celebrate when a new report from the Independent Healthcare Commission recommended that the decision to close the maternity unit should be reversed with immediate effect. Whilst decision makers have thus far resisted the call to reconsider the closure, it’s clear that the report has shown locals that the battle is not yet over.
The report reinforced what so many of us have long believed about our local Maternity Services. Michael Mansfield QC, Chair of the Independent Healthcare Commission, wrote that the Commission had been “impressed by the evidence of the exemplary services provided by Ealing maternity unit.” He went on to say that the specialist care offered by the service had “immeasurable community benefits.” With such a ringing endorsement, it’s difficult to understand why the decision to remove this important community asset was made in the first place.
Ealing maternity unit, and the dedicated staff that worked there, provided a lifeline during times of joy and times of distress for so many local families. When the decision was made to close the service I and many members of the public campaigned to salvage it and to vigorously protect paediatric services at Ealing which seem to be the next in the firing line leaving current and future parents worse off.
Were Ealing to lose its paediatric service, it would mean no specialist consultant cover at its A&E. You can already see the perverse argument from those trying to dismantle our West London NHS; having closed so many vital services, Ealing A&E is unsafe to keep open – the answer make more cuts and close the A&E.
Coming hot on the heels of the closure of two West London A&Es, it was hard to see the decision to close the Ealing Maternity service, and the new threat to paediatrics at the hospital, as anything other a stepping stone in a wider attack on the NHS in West London. The architects of the closures plan continually defend it by saying it is clinically led. The Mansfield report blows this defence out of the water.
As we head into 2016, reversing the closure of Ealing’s Maternity Services, and protecting our paediatrics and A&E units are the most obvious New Year’s Resolution the Government and local CCG should be making.
Dr Onkar Sahota