Report now expected in September
Controversial plans to close four casualty departments - including Ealing's - will be referred to an independent panel to review.
The letter from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to Ealing Council confirmed that given the scale of the changes and the council’s referral to him that he would ask the panel to carry out a full review of the plans.
It is expected that the panel will complete its report by September, after which the health secretary will consider its findings before making his decision.
In March, Ealing’s health and adult social services scrutiny panel unanimously voted to refer controversial plans to the government.
Councillors were angry that NHS bosses decided to push through plans to downgrade four local hospitals, claiming that they would be made at a scale and speed never tested before in NHS history. Councillors were also concerned that the plans were reliant on improvements in primary care that have not yet been achieved and without robust evidence they are safe.
Proposals to shut A&E services at Ealing, Central Middlesex, Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals were announced last summer resulting in widespread opposition by people from across north west London.
Under the current plans the four hospitals affected would no longer accept 'blue light' emergency cases - meaning parts of the borough would be significantly further away from life-saving treatment than they are now.
Council leader Julian Bell said: “This is good news for everyone who is campaigning to ‘Save our Hospitals’ and protect our vital emergency services. Accident and emergency services are under increasing strain with more people using them than ever before. After reading a report in the Mail on Sunday about the increase in deaths in the Newark area following the closure of A&E services, our level of concern has increased and we want these plans scrapped.
“NHS bureaucrats seem hell-bent on ignoring the views of the people of this borough and so I’m pleased that this panel will now review what is proposed. As these plans do not meet the four basic tests set before hospital services can be reconfigured we believe Jeremy Hunt will have no choice but to overturn the NHS decision.
"I am in no doubt that there is still a lot of hard work to do if we are to defeat these barmy plans but, rest assured, we are going to do everything within our power to fight these proposals which we fear are driven by the need to save £1billion rather than by what will deliver the best health care for our residents.”
All political parties on the council are against the NHS proposals.
People are encourage to support the Save our Hospital campaign and follow the campaign on Twitter #HelpSOH
26th May 2013