Hospital unit closures challenged
Wednesday 25th September 2013, 1:11PM BST.
A council is to mount a legal challenge over the closure of maternity and A&E units that David Cameron once vowed to save.
Enfield Council said it would seek a judicial review after the local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) decided this morning to press ahead with plans to close the services at Chase Farm hospital in north London.
The move means Chase Farm will concentrate on non-emergency care, with patients relying on nearby North Middlesex and Barnet hospitals for A&E and maternity.
In opposition, Mr Cameron promised a “bare-knuckle fight” over the closure of local hospital services, promising to protect Chase Farm from an “unjustified” top-down reorganisation.
Former health secretary Andrew Lansley also delayed plans to close the units following a public outcry.
Enfield Council’s leader Doug Taylor said: “For many years the people of Enfield have been assured that improvements to primary care would be in place before the closure of the A&E and maternity services at Chase Farm Hospital.
“The CCG’s decision today to go ahead without these promises being fulfilled is a grave breach of our residents’ legitimate expectations.”
He said no decision should have been taken to close the services without prior compliance with preconditions set down by the Government as far back as 2008.
“These conditions required that a number of new sites were to be developed to provide improved primary care services to the people of Enfield before the A&E and maternity departments could be closed,” he added.
“There are also a number of other conditions relating to the provision of services by GPs which should have been fulfilled before closure. Very few of these conditions have in fact been met.
“Because of the importance of these facilities to Enfield, the council have taken legal advice and have been told that this closure decision without compliance with the preconditions and discharge of the assurances given by two different secretaries of state is unlawful and could be challenged by way of judicial review.
“We will now be preparing that challenge on behalf of the residents of Enfield.
“The council does not believe that residents are convinced by the arguments to close Chase Farm’s vital A&E and maternity departments without the appropriate primary care services being in place and expect their elected representatives – MPs, councillors and community leaders – to protect local health services.”
Mr Taylor said he has written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt ” urging him to halt proceedings until our concerns are addressed”.
The controversy over Chase Farm has more than spanned five years.
The decision to close the services was made by members of the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey clinical commissioning groups.
Maternity and inpatient paediatric services will close on November 20 and the A&E department will shut on December 9.
Chase Farm will still operate an urgent care centre for minor injuries, burns or illness but this will not remain open overnight.
Dr Tim Peachey, chief executive of Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “This is the final piece in the jigsaw that will mean a bigger, better-equipped A&E department at Barnet Hospital, with more consultants, more nurses and a dedicated CT scanner.
“There will be more consultant input to A&E from physicians, surgeons and gynaecologists and nearly 100 hours a week consultant cover in the maternity unit labour ward.
“Many people who currently use Chase Farm Hospital will continue to use Chase Farm Hospital, which will still see 200,000-plus patients a year.
“The hospital will become the local centre of excellence for planned surgery and antenatal services, as well as outpatient and diagnostic services. It will also have assessment units for children and for older people.
“The new urgent care centre at Chase Farm Hospital will still treat many of those who currently use A&E, 365 days a year. There is also a GP-led out-of-hours service for when the centre is closed at night-time.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Any plans to make changes to hospital services should be based on sound clinical advice and must show a clear benefit to patients in that area.
“Local healthcare organisations, doctors, nurses and other health professionals, with their knowledge of the patients they serve, are best placed to decide what services they need for patients in their area.
“The Health Secretary will be responding to Mr Taylor’s letter in due course.”