Response to Hammersmith and Fulham Councils allegations about the Trust
We are very concerned to see the allegation in your press release, published today, that the board of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust are “putting lives at risk”. While the Council has an important role to fulfil in robustly scrutinising healthcare provision in the borough, the serious allegation you make is simply not supported by the facts. The partial and inaccurate information provided in your press release is also likely to cause unnecessary distress to patients and local communities and to undermine the hard work and fantastic commitment of our staff.
We are very proud of the care we provide across our five hospitals and in the community. Patient safety and care quality are our absolute priorities, as evidenced by our position as one of the safest NHS Trusts in England with some of the best clinical outcomes including top ranking for our major trauma centre.
We have been open and transparent about the specific financial challenges we are dealing with currently. As well as publishing our 2014/15 first quarter accounts as part of our public board papers in July, we wrote to you and more than 500 other stakeholders in early August setting out our financial position and the actions we have in place to bring us back on track. As you are aware, we ended the last financial year at 31 March 2014 with a £15.1 million surplus, to be reinvested back into improvements in patient care.
The closure of Hammersmith Hospital A&E department was neither rushed (it was agreed in October 2013) nor driven by our financial position. As our senior clinicians have made clear, it has been driven entirely by the need to provide the best outcomes for seriously ill and injured patients. You imply that the opening of the Lewis Lloyd ward at St Mary’s Hospital is the only additional capacity. We have shared with you and other stakeholders, very detailed plans for how we are improving urgent and emergency care capacity as part of the changes. We also have extra medical, nursing and administrative staff, additional A&E assessment bays and a new ambulatory care unit at St Mary’s Hospital and extra medical, nursing and administrative staff and an improved and expanded older people’s unit at Charing Cross Hospital. This is in addition to expanding the Hammersmith Hospital Urgent Care Centre to a 24/7 unit.
The A&E changes have been formally scrutinised by a range of organisations including NHS England and, just this week, the North West London Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Our Trust has consistently met the 4-hour national standard for A&E waits, including throughout the winter. We have been very clear that urgent care centres are different to A&Es and our public information campaign has focused strongly on explaining the role of an urgent care centre.
Categorically, there is no “cost-cutting frenzy”, we are not closing four A&Es, and no patients in the Victoria and Albert ward have been “man-handled down the stairs”. Our Trust board provides robust oversight of all aspects of our work, not just through the bi-monthly public board meetings but also through regular sub-committees including ones examining quality, risk and audit, and finance.
As ever, and as we have offered in our recent meetings, we believe it would benefit the people we both serve for our organisations to have a constructive partnership and we are always ready to discuss any concerns that you have about our services in detail, based on the facts.
As your statement was published on the Council’s website we will be following the same approach by putting the contents of this letter on our Trust website. We will also send a copy of this letter to the Care Quality Commission’s chief inspector of hospitals.
Sir Richard Sykes Dr Tracey Batten
Chairman Chief Executive