Just four out of 13 NHS bosses gave evidence for report probing affect of A&E closure at Central Middlesex Hospital

Central Middlesex Hospital lost its A&E unit in September last year

Central Middlesex Hospital lost its A&E unit in September last year - Credit: Archant

Just four out of 13 NHS chiefs turned up to give evidence at several hearings which scrutinised the closure of the A&E units at Central Middlesex Hospital.

Michael Mansfield QC has slammed NHS bosses (Pic: Lewis Whyld/PA Archive)

Michael Mansfield QC has slammed NHS bosses (Pic: Lewis Whyld/PA Archive) - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

The hearings were held as part of an independent commissioned report probing the axing of the casualty units at CMH in Acton Lane, Park Royal, Hammersmith and Ealing Hospital.

Mr Mansfield, who represented the family of murder victim Stephen Lawrence, called the NHS’s bosses’ failure to fully engage with his inquiry a “grave disappointment”.

The closures were undertaken as part of the controversial Shaping a Healthier Future (SaHF) programme to save £1billion.

Evidence gathered at the hearing was used to compile a report by Michael Mansfield QC, which was commissioned by Brent, Hammersmith & Fulham, Hounslow and Ealing Councils.

The leaders of all four local authorities were concerned about the affect the closures would have on residents.

CMH’s A&E unit closed in September last year.

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In the damning report which describes the SaHF’s decision to downgrade several hospitals last year as “deeply flawed”, Mr Mansfield claims a “siege mentality” led to just the four top managers attending oral evidence sessions to help the report reach conclusions on the programme.

The report states: “Anecdotal evidence suggests that many…are reluctant to rock the boat and feel intimidated by the all-powerful CCGs (clinical commissioning group).

“Among the profession there appears to be a reluctance to stick one’s head above the parapet.”

The report states that unwillingness to co-operate with the commission extended to NHS staff, nurses and practitioners, who feared their jobs would be at risk if they submitted critical feedback.

Referencing the Francis report into the cover-up of serious care failings and avoidable deaths at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust in 2013, the report adds: “This anxiety is of concern to the Commission in the aftermath of the Francis Report, which drew particular attention to the need to ensure a safe environment for whistle blowing.”

The commission’s report into the public consultations carried out before the closure of A&E units across North West London Healthcare Trust (NWLHT) also found the public had scant information and was not made aware of the proposed changes.

Robin Sharp, chair of Kilburn Patient Participation Group, told the commission a decision had been taken on the basis of only 5,000 consultation responses out of a total population in North West London of 2million.

The report calls for the “immediate” halt of the SaHF and an independent review of North West London Healthcare Trust’s programme by the National Audit Office.

It also describes the relationship between the new bodies set up to oversee the closure and downgrading of a number of NHS units since 2013 as “dysfunctional” and adds in conclusion: “The system… is wrong in principle and not working in practice, yet somehow it is no one’s responsibility to put the problems right.”

A spokesman for the NHS Shaping a Healthier Future programmesaid: “The NHS cooperated fully with the Michael Mansfield-led commission throughout its inquiry, providing substantial written and oral evidence and responding to further queries from the commission following its public hearings.

“Witnesses were made available to the commission at the final oral hearing once we had chance to consider all evidence about which the NHS may be asked to respond.

He added: “We are pleased that since the programme began two years ago, patients are already starting to see benefits. More than a million people now have better access to GPs with more appointments available over weekdays and weekends, and we now have eleven community hubs open across North West London, which provide a range of health and social care services in one place, closer to people’s homes.”