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Northwick Park Hospital's ability to cater for increased A&E demand in Harrow 'a real issue'
Questions have been raised about how struggling Northwick Park Hospital will cope with an increase in demand in emergency patients under hospital reorganisation plans.
Consultation on NHS North West London’s preferred plan to downgrade Central Middlesex Hospital’s accident and emergency department to an urgent care centre and make Northwick Park and Hillingdon hospitals the major hospitals for the area closed earlier this month.
The proposals, which would come into force in 2016 at the earliest, would mean Northwick Park, which is currently undergoing a £20million redevelopment of its A&E department, would see an increased demand.
But as the Harrow Times revealed last week, GPs have been told to send emergency patients to Central Middlesex as Northwick Park is struggling to cope with the current demand, and was forced to divert patients to other hospitals 45 times between February 2011 and August this year.
London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow, Navin Shah, wants Central Middlesex to remain open and lobbied Mayor of London Boris Johnson to stop the plans earlier this week.
He said: “I can’t believe that they’ve seriously thought through these proposals and there’s a real issue about increased demand at Northwick Park.
“It’s got to be remembered that this is the very hospital where resources are totally stretched – people are having to wait more than three hours at A&E before they’re even seen.
“The Labour Government invested millions of pounds in Central Middlesex Hospital to get some great facilities – so why would you want to go down the slippery slope of closing the A&E?”
The most recently released data in August shows that Northwick Park missed targets on the time patients had to wait at A&E until their initial assessment and the total time they spent in the department – with the average patient spending more than five hours there.
Its performance has improved slightly since June, when patients spent an average of nearly eight hours in A&E.
Mr Shah also criticised the reduction in hours of Alexandra Avenue Polyclinic last year, which he said had sent more patients to Northwick Park for emergency treatment.
Mr Johnson said on Wednesday that “the changes that are being made are clinically justified” and insisted that “the impact of the closures is not going to be adverse”, although he said he was not responsible for them.
In its submission to the consultation on hospital reorganisation, Harrow Council said it was “concerned about the capacity and infrastructure” at Northwick Park to cater with increased demand.
It added: “There is a need to invest in Northwick Park Hospital’s services, workforce and estate to make it best positioned to be able to accommodate a growing number of patients.”
But the health authority believes that the pressure on A&E can be reduced by improving out-of-hospital care for older people and reducing unnecessary referrals from GPs.
It believes that the reorganisation will mean higher volumes of income-generating work will be done at Northwick Park to help it balance its books – it is currently forecast to continue with a long-term deficit.
Final recommendations put forward by NHS North West London are expected to be considered by February next year, with three years of work to develop out-of-hospital care before any changes would be able to be made to any hospitals.