Hospital chiefs spent �7m on consultation to close casualty units

Central Middlesex Hospital will lose A&E department and three others are in jeopardy

Furious campaigners have reacted with disbelief after it was revealed that a consultation into proposed changes to the NHS across north-west London – including axing the casualty unit at Central Middlesex Hospital – cost taxpayers a staggering �7million.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds were spent on payouts to public relations companies and producing 100,000 copies of an 80-page consultation booklet during the period.

The figure was clocked up in just 18 months and also included nearly �3million in fees to a management consultancy firm to work out the financial case for the closures, a Freedom of Information request by a national newspaper has revealed.

The Shaping a Healthier Future consultation, launched at the beginning of July, threatens four casualty departments across eight boroughs and has already attracted widespread opposition.

Central Middlesex Hospital, in Acton Lane, Harlesden, will lose its A&E unit under every potential option despite it undergoing a �62million refurbishment just six years ago.

The consultation closed earlier this month.

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Sarah Cox, a member of Brent’s anti-cuts group Brent Fightback, who have been campaigning against the plans told the Times the figure was “gobsmacking”.

She said: “I cannot believe – with all its flaws and problems – it has cost that amount. Just think what that kind of money could have done. At times it seemed like they were doing a consultation in a vacuum and we are still speaking to people who are not even aware of the plans.”

A spokesman for NHS North West London said they “strongly defended” the expenditure and that the total cost of the programme worked out at less than �4 per person for the affected population.

He added that costs also represent just 0.2 per cent of the total �3.4billion spent on healthcare in north-west London every year.

He added: “This programme will save hundreds of lives – and the value of that is incalculable.

“We strongly defend this expenditure. Clinicians all over NW London have said they believe it is the right way to develop better care, and they strongly believe it is in the best interests of their patients.”