Karen Buck

Working hard for Westminster North

News

This week, a tiny minority of those entitled to do so will exercise their right to vote for elected police commissioners. These elections will cost around £100m- at a time when the police service nationally is being expected to cut its budget by £1 in every £5 that it spends. London won't be voting- Boris Johnson fulfils that role in the capital- but the challenges are the same. The 20% funding cut is leading to decisions such as the selling off of New Scotland Yard, the loss of 891 Police Community Support Officers be and the closure of up to 65 police stations.

Last month it was revealed that the Mayor might not be able to keep his election promise to have 1,000 more police officers in London than when he took office. Boris has written to the Metropolitan Police asking them to come up with their final proposals for cutting £148m next year. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary has stated that the government may be able to cut the policing budget by 12% without damaging front line services- the actual demand is for 20%.

Here is Westminster some 230 PCSO posts have gone. Police officer staffing levels look as though they may be broadly protected but it is essential that this does not mean so much attention on the ‘high volume crime' areas in the West End that the residential communities in the North are squeezed. But we also await further information on police station counter closures. St John's Wood station has already got a notice in the window shutting up shop, which is not exactly the way in which these decisions should be announced.

Services and public expectations change and it may be possible to agree on at least some rationalisation of the estate- especially if this helps protect policing levels,. Neighbourhood police teams can sometimes operate from other locations which are even more accessible, for example. However, the loss of 65 stations in London would fundamentally change the feel of the policing presence. Even more modest options need to take place out in the open, with clear, agreed criteria and above all, transparency in the consultation and decision making processes. As I said to the Met Commissioner a few days ago, the police must raise their game dramatically when it comes to good communication with the public, whether at a counter, or via the phone or e-mail. I believe that the general public view would be that, so long as response times are guaranteed, policing is visible and calls and e-mails are answered thoroughly and promptly, some changes may be possible. What must not be allowed to happen is a slow process of boarding up police stations without proper debate and a concrete guarantee of policing quality and responsiveness in exchange. How possible this will be with a demoralised service under huge financial pressure is another matter.

 

Karen’s article on policing in the Capital and within Westminster

This week, a tiny minority of those entitled to do so will exercise their right to vote for elected police commissioners. These elections will cost around £100m- at a time...

Energy bills are one of the biggest costs facing families. But only 20 per cent of people are on the cheapest deal. With so many confusing tariffs on the market, people find switching energy supplier difficult, or give up trying because all the companies seem to put their prices up. That's why Labour has organised our www.switchtogether.org.uk scheme.

THE LABOUR PARTY DOES NOT MAKE ANY MONEY FROM THE SCHEME

How does the scheme work?

1. Sign up free and with no obligation to tell us you are interested in switching suppliers to save money

2. You can sign up from 26 September 2012 to 25 November 2012

3. You will hear from us in late November 2012 with an offer of an energy tariff based on your usage

4. We will let you know when you need to tell us whether you want to accept the offer.

And that's it! If you accept the offer, we will provide support and guidance during the process to switch you to your new tariff.

No access to internet or email?

Up to five households can register using the same email address - so if you don't have email, ask a friend or neighbour if you can use their email address (and tell them about our scheme at the same time).
You can also call the free number 0800-048 8112 (from 8:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.) to request a paper form.

Join Labour’s SwitchTogether scheme to save on your energy bills

Energy bills are one of the biggest costs facing families. But only 20 per cent of people are on the cheapest deal. With so many confusing tariffs on the market,...

The national debate about welfare has taken on a distinctly harsher tone of late. Perhaps it is not accidental that the hard line emerging from the government to accompany announcements of a further £10 billion in cuts ( on top of the £18 billion beginning to work their way through the system now) is wrapped in ever tougher language. For if the public perception is that social security really is excessively generous, traps people in dependency, and is mostly claimed by shirkers and fraudsters, then cutting a few more holes in the safety net is just that bit easier. The trouble is, so many of the announcements made by government ministers to justify their positions are either wrong, misleading or flimsily anecdotal. So here are a few myth-busters.

Myth number 1: ‘You are better off on benefits". Wrong. Work already pays in almost all cases, even where wages are low, because of the availability of in-work benefits to help with housing, Council Tax or to top up low pay (tax credits). The trouble is, it often doesn't allow people to keep much of their earnings. The new Universal Credit being introduced by the government next year may roll a number of benefits and tax credits into one, but it works on the same principle as the system it replaces, topping up low incomes and withdrawing as incomes rise. There will be gainers from the slower rate at which benefits are withdrawn under Universal Credit, and because of the increase in the personal tax allowance, but many others will be worse off or see no benefit- and unfortunately the losers look like they will include many London households facing the highest housing and childcare costs.

Myth number 2: Spending on welfare for people of working age has spiralled out of control. Although spending on benefits like Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support and Employment Support Allowance do, of course, cost a considerable amount, they account for less than one-sixth even of all social security/tax credit spending- the largest parts of which are pensions and support for low income working people- and 3.4% of all public spending last year.

Myth number 3: We have a crisis of inter-generational worklessness. In fact, if you don't include students, just 1.5 households out of every 100 have never had anyone in work ( that includes disabled people), and the number of inter-generational unemployed is tiny . The bigger issue is that so many people move in and out of employment, usually because the jobs are themselves temporary, seasonal or casual, and 1.4 million people are working part-time when they really want full-time work.
Myth number 4: There are jobs for all who want them. At last count, there were 5.5 people chasing every registered vacancy, but this figure rises to over 20 to 1 in parts of Scotland, Wales and the north of England. Welfare Minister Ian Duncan Smith has said more than once that there are half a million new jobs referred to Job Centre Plus every week. The true figure is around one tenth of that.
Myth number 5: Under the last Labour government, welfare dependency grew. In fact, up until the recession hit it 2008, the number of working age people on out-of-work benefits numbers had been falling steadily. The majority of the fall was in unemployed claimants, the numbers of which fell by a third over the period.

Myth number 6: Poverty is all about the ‘behaviour' of the poor, including the 120,000 ‘troubled families'. But 3.8 million children live below the poverty line, and half of families in poverty have at least one adult in work.

No-one is arguing that we shouldn't take fraud seriously and that there aren't some people who abuse the system. And it is true that work is usually both valuable in its own right and critical to lifting people out of poverty. Yet we risk spending too much time on the wrong things, when our priorities should be jobs growth and apprenticeship opportunities, skills training fair pay, affordable housing and childcare. So we miss the bigger targets and in the meantime, real people suffer.

Myth-busting the welfare debate

The national debate about welfare has taken on a distinctly harsher tone of late. Perhaps it is not accidental that the hard line emerging from the government to accompany announcements...

Westminster Council to go ahead with closure of the Jubilee Sports Centre and replacement of the Moberly Centre

As expected. Westminster City Council has now formally approved the decision to close the Jubilee Sports Centre and build a new, larger centre on the Moberly site on Kilburn Lane.

It is not in dispute that the new centre will upgrade and improve sports facilities locally. Westminster has also agreed to provide a new sports hall on the re-built Jubilee site in recognition of the widespread opposition to their plans. Some people are strongly in support of the proposals, and feel they will be of benefit to the area.

However, the Queen's Park ward councillors and I, along with many local residents who have been in touch, do not believe that concerns have been properly addressed.

These include:
• The central objection to the re-location of the swimming pool. Most local people we have spoken to believe that the Jubilee is a better location for the pool, and that the Moberly site is less convenient

• Access to synthetic-pitch football, which will be lost from Moberly, and is to be re-located onto Queen's Park Gardens, in turn, reducing capacity for open-access play.

• The loss of the open-access basketball court in Lancefield Street, which provides for young people from the Mozart estate and elsewhere.

Whether the Council's projections for the increased use of the new sports centre will reflect the wishes and needs of local people, as well as draw in more users from across the borough, Brent and further afield. We know that the Council is projecting a 65% rise in attendance at the New Moberly, compared with existing facilities, but no-one has satisfactorily explained how they come to that figure, nor why local people NOT using Jubilee/Moberly now will start using the New Moberly.
• The poor quality of the consultation process, which meant many local people had no idea about what was being suggested.

• The absence of any ‘affordable' homes out of the 120 to be built on the Moberly and Jubilee sites.

Westminster will now go ahead with seeking planning permission to re-build the Moberly Centre and to build new homes on the Jubilee site, so there will be further opportunities to raise concerns during the planning process.

In the meantime, your councillors and I are also pressing Westminster on:
• How they intend to fund the security and activities at the replacement facility proposed for Caird Street. The worst possible situation would be to have a sports hall on this site which was closed more often than not, and not meeting local needs or not affordable to local people.

• The need to include an open-access outdoor play/activity area, to replace the well-used basketball court in Lancefield Street.

• Whether the financial plans under-estimate the value of the homes being built for open market sale, and whether there is, thefore, scope to insist on some affordable housing to meet local needs within the new development.


Your views continue to be welcome so please keep on contacting me.

Major changes to hospital services and health care in North West London

NHS North West London is recommending changes to the way healthcare is provided to hospitals across the area. Radically reducing the number of Accident and Emergency units, and affecting some services at the Chelsea and Westminster, Central Middlesex, Charing Cross, Ealing, Hammersmith, Hillingdon, Northwick Park, St. Mary's and West Middlesex hospitals

Although neither St Mary's nor Chelsea and Westminster are on the list of hospitals likely to lose their Accident and Emergency units, there will be knock-on effects locally as demand will increase for services locally, and investment will be needed to cope. Will there be the funding, and the capacity, to manage with rising pressures at a much smaller number of Accident and Emergency units?

The consultation ends on the 8th October 2012.

Local people need to make their views known, and to ask questions about what the changes will mean before the consultation ends on October 8th.

You may want to attend the public meeting on this issue, which is taking place on October 1st, between 6 and 8pm, at Westminster Academy, The Naim Dangoor Centre, 255 Harrow Road, London, W2 5EZ (Paddington or Royal Oak stations or 18 and 36 buses).

There is also a consultation event on Saturday 6th October. Drop-in between 10am and 4pm at Hinde Street Methodist Church, 19 Thayer Street, London, W1U 2QJ.

Other ways to find out what is being proposed:

Visit: www.healthiernorthwestlondon.nhs.uk

Call: 0800 881 5209

Email: consultation@nw.london.nhs.uk

See the NHS North West London consultation document for details of the proposals.

Key consultation areas
• Which five hospitals should become Major Hospitals with A&E, Obstetrics and Pediatrics, and which should be Local Hospitals with a 24/7 Urgent Care Department (but without a full Accident and Emergency unit)

• Changes being proposed by Imperial College Health Trust to transfer eye services from Western Eye Hospital and the Hyperacute Stroke Unit from Charing Cross to St Mary's Hospital.

• How services can be improved within a community setting to reduce the need for hospital admissions- what they might look like and how they will be funded.

Even though St Mary's Accident and Emergency unit is not listed for closure, It is still important to have your say as the consultation extends across is across North West London, and it remains possible that the NHS may change their plans in the light of responses elsewhere!
Yours sincerely,


Karen Buck MP

Karen Buck MP September E-News

Westminster Council to go ahead with closure of the Jubilee Sports Centre and replacement of the Moberly Centre As expected. Westminster City Council has now formally approved the decision to...

The recent suggestion from the Policy Exchange think-tank that social housing in valuable areas should be sold and the profits used to build more homes in cheaper places, re-hashes an old argument but predictably grabbed the headlines.

Doesn't it make sense, with 4.5 million people in housing need, to boost supply? Surely those in need and on low incomes should not expect to be housed centrally anyway (the myth-makers like to refer to ‘Mayfair' or 'near Harrods' as if these neighbourhoods of the global mega-rich are stuffed with council estates).

Well, not this way it doesn't. I'll start and finish with the importance of 'mixed communities'. 'Social' housing has existed in inner London for 150 years, when the big philanthropists like the Peabody Trust started replacing the slums which had scarred the city from Parliament to Covent Garden to Holborn. Swathes of what now include some of the country's most expensive properties were once desperately poor. Even as recently as the 1960s, the Notting Hill Housing Trust started by buying and replacing private homes that were a by-word for slum landlordism- somewhat ironically paving the way for the regeneration which now sees houses there sell for many millions. London has always been socially mixed, is now highly ethnically mixed, and has benefited economically, culturally and socially as a result- and social housing has helped make that possible.

More recently still, certainly in Central London, the international property market has changed the landscape significantly. It has been estimated that 60% of new sales in central London go to overseas buyers and £5 billion a year is flowing into London's 'luxury' housing market. This is helping to feed the house price bubble and freezing out low and middle income buyers and renters alike. Now, foreign ownership of property is an accepted reality- but equally, the scale and impact should not be permitted to distort our own civic life.

Then there is the effect on tenants. Government Ministers praise a mobility scheme which gives tenants a chance ‘to improve their job prospects, live closer to family or simply move to a home better suited to their changing needs'. Sound objectives, but they depend on a varied stock being available. One example given is of a woman living in the countryside who swapped her council house for one in town, closer to her job. But under the Policy Exchange scheme, the village house would be sold off, not re-let. And someone has to do those low-paid jobs in Central London, too- especially those which involve unsocial hours.

Nor is it true that 'existing tenants would not be affected', as claimed. Certainly, the property being sold would be vacant, but what about the family down the road in over-crowded accommodation, or the disabled person needing a medical transfer? They would be either left for longer in poor, sometimes terrible, conditions, or required to move out, regardless of their history, their connections, their responsibilities.

Sales are not the only way to deal with the investment shortfall anyway. In the 1960s Notting Hill Housing Trust bought properties to protect poor people from slum landlords, but as these grew massively in value the balance sheet of the organisation strengthened and became the foundation for hundreds of millions of pounds of prudential borrowing for more social homes elsewhere If you decide to buy a second home, and you have a first house on which you don't owe very much, the best way of raising money is often to extend your mortgage on the house you already have. Councils and housing associations have, on average, outstanding debts of only £17,000 per house and already sweat their assets, so the last thing they want to do is to lose the most valuable of them. New investment made sense in itself, too, which is why the previous government had an £8 billion investment programme. That programme passed the value test - creating an asset that will make a profit in its lifetime, and pay off in jobs created and benefit bills reduced, but it was slashed by 60% by the current government.

Of course, the number of council homes has plummeted over the last 30 years, with Right to Buy massively reducing the rental pool. Lots of new homes would be built from the proceeds, went the promise, but the sold homes were never replaced and most of the money disappeared into the Treasury. Many ex-council homes were rented back to low-income and homeless households at much higher prices- helping fuel the rise in Housing Benefit. People who would once have been eligible for a council home ended up in expensive private rented homes, with the same effect. So the promise was made and broken before. Would it be different now?

Finally, let's return to the issue of mixed communities. We hear a great deal about promoting mixed communities in poor places, like Newham, or Southwark. Fair enough everyone understands that concentrating poorer people in poor neighbourhoods is bad- for their life chances and for the wider community, as was debated last August during the riots. Those councils want a better mix, with more home-ownership and greater affluence. Yet the same logic applies where low cost housing is currently limited, because those areas have become more valuable, or because they are away from the inner city, in suburbs, towns and even villages elsewhere. Will London's outer suburbs, or market towns in the surrounding countryside build hundreds of thousands of new council homes and, crucially, offer them to those people, outsiders by definition, squeezed from the inner city?

Or, as seems likely, will already affluent areas become ever more so, communities be broken up and the millions in housing need become more marginalised still?

“We” should all be in this together. Housing Hypocrisy and the Great Sell-Off

The recent suggestion from the Policy Exchange think-tank that social housing in valuable areas should be sold and the profits used to build more homes in cheaper places, re-hashes an...

It was my great pleasure to host an event on the 10th of July aimed at young people not in employment, education or training. With the support of CH2MHill, we worked together with HR professionals to deliver a couple of really productive sessions to the 50 or so young people from the area who attended. The first session focused on CVs and how best to communicate your skills clearly and effectively to potential employers. It is always amazing how even a few changes will make a difference to your CV and get you noticed.

Lunch provided a chance for attendees to have a look around the stalls. We have some great organisations for young people in the local area and some fantastic people - Gareth Owen from the Volunteer Centre, Chris Joseph from the Westminster Adult Education Service, and Richard Spencer from Westminster Council's Sports Unit in particular, who gave brilliant presentations.

We also had representatives from the Princes Trust, the London Apprenticeship Company, Vital Regeneration, JobCentre Plus and City of Westminster College. All offered a wide range of opportunities open to young people - apprenticeships in the music or finance industry, or more personalised help with CVs and interview practice.

The afternoon session focused on how to succeed at interviews - getting over nerves can be difficult, but we learnt that you can never prepare too much for an interview. Thinking about the questions you are likely to be asked and writing down answers can help - even saying them out loud so that in the interview you can aim to speak clearly and confidently having gotten used to the feel of saying the words.

Massive thanks go to Tina Rycroft from the Plus team who gave the presentations, and of course to our excellent stallholders who were so helpful in answering young people's questions and giving them advice. We were also able to put on a prize draw with donations of 2 vouchers, each for meals for two, from Bayswater Nando's.

I'd also like to say a special thank you to staff at Sainsbury's in Ladbroke Grove who donated some sandwiches for lunch, and to Waitrose in Bayswater for their generous additions of drinks, crisps and biscuits for the event.

Assistance for Jobseekers Day

It was my great pleasure to host an event on the 10th of July aimed at young people not in employment, education or training. With the support of CH2MHill, we...

Some of you may know about Westminster City Council's plans to close the Jubilee Sports Centre, build housing on the site and re-develop the Moberley Centre on Kilburn Lane instead. However, although Westminster claims to have ‘leafleted all homes within 2 miles of the Jubilee', very few people actually seem to be aware of the plans and most of those people who have heard are worried about them.

The Council say:

* ‘Both centres are very dated and in need of significant investment'

* ‘The cost of running both existing sports facilities, which are very close to each other (0.6 miles apart), is ..significant. In these challenging financial times and because of their extremely high combined annual subsidy of £600,000 p.a. there is unlikely to be the public funds available in future to maintain, update and refresh the two sites'

Your Queens Park Ward Councillors and I have many concerns about the plans:

· The Moberly Centre, which will be where all the new sports/leisure facilities are based, is actually in Brent, and could change the user base away from north Westminster

· It will be further away and less convenient for many Westminster residents than the Jubilee

· The Jubilee is in the centre of a very deprived community, including the Mozart estate, and serves an area with the highest population density in the country.

· There is a desperate need for more facilities for young people, not fewer.

· It is used for community purposes other than sport

· New housing on the site will not be ‘affordable' and will not relieve housing need in the area.

It is very important that we find out what people think of these plans before all the decisions get made.

If you have any views on the issue, please send me your comments/concerns about closing the Jubilee Centre to :

· E-mail at buckk@parliament.uk

· Write back to me at the House of Commons, London SW1A OAA ( or FREEPOST to me at 4G Shirland Mews, London W9)

Yours Sincerely

Karen Buck MP

Westminster Council plans to replace Jubilee Sports Centre

Some of you may know about Westminster City Council's plans to close the Jubilee Sports Centre, build housing on the site and re-develop the Moberley Centre on Kilburn Lane instead....

Central to the public sense of fair play, central to the government's welfare strategy (central to the Labour government's welfare strategy, come to that) is the belief that work should pay and work is the best route out of poverty. All right thinking people agree. No- one should languish out of work unless they are incapable of work. Sp what should be of the utmost concern to us is that work all too often doesn't pay. Not because social security levels are so generous that they enable a comfortable lifestyle over the long term- they don't- but because millions of people do not earn enough when employed to make ends meet.

The minimum wage provided a welcome income boost for around 2 million people at the time it was introduced, and despite the doom-mongering of the Conservative opposition who voted against it, it did not lead to substantial job losses. But welcome though the minimum wage is, as a floor below which hourly rates cannot fall, those wage rates have been insufficient to protect against the growth of the category we call the ‘working poor'. Currently, 57% of children in very low income households have at least one working parent- a statistic we should all be alarmed by.

Hourly rates of pay aren't the whole story, of course. One of the characteristics of the recent years of recession has been under-employment- that is, people having no choice but to work fewer hours than they would like, and/or than are necessary for them to keep their heads above water.

Low pay forces the government to spend more as ‘in-work' benefits rises, so we subsidise low pay by around £28 billion. Tax credits, introduced by Labour in the late 1990s, acted as a top-up for low wages, ‘making work pay' in the positive style ( the other method is to cut out of work benefits, though that does nothing to improve people's incomes, or put demand into a demand-starved economy). Together with other ‘in-work benefits' like Housing and Council Tax Benefit, individuals and families were kept in work, even with frozen or falling real incomes and on reduced hours. And we want people to remain in work- unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, is catastrophically wasteful of money and human potential.

But surely we could do better? If leaving people languishing out of work is seen as an unequivocally bad thing, then trapping a substantial and growing section of the population in in-work poverty must also be wasteful. However, in-work benefits, like tax credits, are taking a hit as part of the £18 billion scaling back in ‘welfare' spending. The government will argue that its new integrated ‘Universal credit' will be a solution, but welcome though some elements may be ( like its smoothing out of the often ludicrously steep level at which tax and benefits are withdrawn) it won't solve the problem of low pay and under-employment.

The think tank for the ‘squeezed middle', the Resolution Foundation, is the latest to campaign for action on a ‘living wage', which voluntarily builds on the minimum wage to tackle the scale of low pay. Its authors point out that there are an estimated 540,000 workers in London earning less than the London Living Wage of £8.30 an hour, yet only 10,000 London workers won a living wage in the six years between 2005 and 2011. When it comes to contemplating the implementation of a living wage, it would appear that the vast majority of employers remain concerned about costs and sceptical about the business case that living wage activists have placed at the centre of their campaigns. Yet in a number of key sectors of the economy, a living wage is shown to be affordable to business and even more so if phased in.

Governments will continue to have a role to play in tackling unemployment, under-employment and the scandal of low pay, because it is in all our interests- economic as well as social- that they do. But on issues like the Living Wage, is it not time that business looks harder at the contribution it can make?

http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/media/media/downloads/Final_What_Price_a_Living_Wage_1.pdf

Why low pay costs us ALL money

Central to the public sense of fair play, central to the government's welfare strategy (central to the Labour government's welfare strategy, come to that) is the belief that work should...

NHS North West London has produced a ‘medium-list' of options for hospital closures and shifts in service provision, which will be formally consulted on after this election period is over.

It is expected that only 5 out of 9 hospitals will continue to operate as now.

The nine current hospitals Hospitals have been paired up, with the expectation that only one of the two would remain as a major, 24/7 acute hospital.

This is detailed by Westminster Council's Health Policy committee as meaning:

HAMMERSMITH vs ST MARY'S

CHARING CROSS vs CHELSEA and WESTMINSTER

EALING vs WEST MIDDLESEX

Central Middlesex is already reported as being too small to continue as a major hospital, and Northwick Park and Hillingdon are expected to remain as they serve areas of outer London with fewer alternatives.

The dramatic reduction in the number of Accident and Emergency units being proposed is based on two concepts:

· That better emergency outcomes can be achieved with a smaller number of more specialist hospitals

· Many people go to Accident and Emergency units unnecessarily when they could be better treated in local GP/community facilities ( and attendances at Accident and Emergency have soared in recent years)

These proposals have been in the public domain for some weeks but will not be formerly consulted on until later this summer .

My big worry is that alternative GP- based or community services will not be in place BEFORE Accident and Emergency units close, especially given the massive cuts now facing the London NHS, and the huge reductions in social care for elderly and disabled people made by local authorities, including Westminster Council.

I have written a short article for the local press on this issue, which you can see by clicking on the hyper-link below:

http://www.karenbuck.org.uk/index.php/karenb/articles/huge_changes_for_north_west_londons_aes/

The particular challenges for London- including the urgent need for a proper London-wide leadership on the NHS, is described in this article by health think-tank, the Kings Fund, here:

http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/press/press_releases/london_review_press.html

I will be making sure that as many people as possible reply to the official consultation when it comes out, but I thought it was important to give you advance warning! These changes will be some of the largest and most controversial in recent NHS history and it will essential to have a well-informed debate and build community health provision before A and E closures actually take place.

Karen Buck MP

Massive changes to hospital services in North West London about to be announced

NHS North West London has produced a ‘medium-list' of options for hospital closures and shifts in service provision, which will be formally consulted on after this election period is over....

Later this summer one of the most explosive consultations on the NHS in modern times will be launched as up to 3 out of 7 hospitals serving North West London face the closure of their Accident and Emergency units. Expect fireworks as plans are set out for the future of hospital services, against a backdrop of the worse squeeze on NHS spending ever seen. St Mary's, the Chelsea and Westminster, Hammersmith and Charing Cross hospitals will all be in the mix- and at least one, possibly 2 of these will end up without ‘ blue light' Accident and Emergency units, which will mean becoming very different types of hospital.

As is so often the case, the story behind this is complex. Although the number of people attending Accident and Emergency units has been rising sharply, by no means all are doing so because of severe or traumatic illness or injury, and it would be far better to be able to treat some of these patients GP led clinics instead. The future of health care lies in improving community based care for older people and patients with chronic conditions, with a smaller number of highly specialist units for emergencies that give people suffering strokes, heart attacks or serious injuries much better chances of survival.

The problem is that the improved community services- NHS and local authority provided- should be visible and delivering results before lots of hospitals start shutting their Accident and Emergency units down. And yet what have we seen from Westminster council this last year? Social care slashed, Taxicards taken from frail elderly and disabled people, and the Centre for Independent Living in Bayswater closed. So enthusiastically have Westminster hacked away at provision for older and disabled people that they have cut by £4.4 million MORE than originally budgeted! None of this gives any grounds for confidence that Accident and Emergency unit closures will be offset by the quality early-intervention services which could prevent, or at least reduce the demand from, people needing emergency admissions. If the government expects public support for these changes- some of which may be necessary and justifiable in principle- they must show they understand and can respond to the very real concerns patients and families have about the level and quality of the alternatives available. Public support for hospitals is not based on sentiment alone. It reflects a genuine fear that warm words and promises count for less that hard evidence of a better alternative.

Huge changes for North West London’s A&E’s

Later this summer one of the most explosive consultations on the NHS in modern times will be launched as up to 3 out of 7 hospitals serving North West London...

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