Campaigners call on council to ‘urgently’ halt NHS sell-off plans

St Leonard’s Hospital, Hackney. Photograph: Dr Neil Clifton

A new healthcare strategy for East London has attracted sharp criticism from Hackney’s healthcare watchdog and NHS campaigners.

The plans include a move of all NHS mental health beds from the Homerton Hospital to Mile End, and point towards a potential sell-off of Hoxton’s St Leonard’s Hospital, set out in the East London Health & Care Partnership’s (ELHCP) Strategic Estates Plan.

Healthwatch Hackney and Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) are protesting the “devastating effects” the plans could have on the Homerton, and are calling for more extended consultation.

Healthwatch Hackney’s interim chair Paul Fleming said: “These are significant proposals that could radically change the shape and, potentially, the level of health and mental health provision in Hackney.

“This is a developed strategy which, until now, has been kept under wraps and out of the public gaze. The strategy is devoid of patient and public input.

“Patients greatly value NHS services provided at St Leonard’s. They are effective and high quality. Patients will be concerned if changes result in a reduction in access to services or a reduction in the quality of those services.”

Fleming added that Healthwatch welcomed recent commitments by City & Hackney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to consult extensively on the plans around St Leonard’s and the movement of beds, and offered to support any engagement with patients and the public.

St Leonards is part of the Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust, and hosts a range of services including respiratory medicine, neurological rehabilitation, and elderly care.

The building, the freehold of which is held by NHS Property Services, has been identified by the CCG and ELHCP as a significant drain on resources due to annual ‘void costs’ of £847,000 from unused space.

Twenty-five per cent of its space has been identified as “unfit for use due to poor/dilapidated condition and poor space flexibility”.

The strategy seeks to reduce estate costs, and says a move of mental health beds to Mile End Hospital could result in a “potential increase” in acute beds.

It also attempts to respond to a projected population growth of 384,000 expected over the next 15 years in the ELHCP catchment area, equivalent to the population of Middlesbrough.

KONP Hackney has voiced deep concerns over the proposals.

A spokesperson said: “There has been no public engagement or consultation on the plan on the Strategic Estates Plan, which could have devastating effects on Homerton Hospital and other NHS services in Hackney.

“Keep Our NHS Public Hackney calls on Hackney Council urgently to use its powers to halt any further development of this plan pending full public consultation on the proposals, including consideration of alternative options.

“The plan proposes selling off much of the St Leonard’s site for housing rather than for the provision of urgently needed local NHS services, such as intermediate care and respite beds, long-term care of older people and mental health services which are currently set to be moved out of Hackney.”

KONP also expressed scepticism over plans to develop King George Hospital in Redbridge as a ‘centre of excellence for care of older people,’ stating that the term ‘centres of excellence’ implied greater centralisation, which could result in Hackney over-65s having to travel further outside the borough for care.

Cllr Feryal Demirci, cabinet member for health, social care, transport and parks, also made clear her ‘extreme disappointment’ at the publication of the strategy ahead of any consultation, and made similar calls for resident involvement in the process.

Cllr Demirci said: “We are extremely disappointed that the STP has chosen to progress and publish these lengthy proposals without meaningful public engagement beforehand. People care deeply about their health and care services and they should be involved in, and aware of the reasons behind, any significant proposed restructures from the outset.

“The Council will certainly want any decision-making process to be clear and transparent, with meaningful opportunities for residents and patients to have their say to inform decisions. It also needs to be clearly demonstrated that a range of options have been considered, and  decisions regarding the Homerton, St Leonard’s or any other NHS property in Hackney need to be demonstrably for the benefit of residents and patients in Hackney.”

A spokesperson for City & Hackney CCG said: “The CCG is committed to undertaking consultation with patients, residents and healthcare professionals into the future of St Leonard’s Hospital.”

“Redevelopment proposals will be developed by a working group of NHS Property Services, City and Hackney CCG, NHS England, providers and patient and resident representatives.

“Redevelopment decisions will be subject to a review of the site which will be sent to NHS England.

“Any redevelopment of the St. Leonard’s site will centre around the health and care needs of local residents and patients.

“A review of the site, which is in its early stages, will look at what space is needed to meet the health and care needs of local residents while taking into account future population growth, changes in how health and care services will be provided (such as the Neighbourhood model) and national initiatives. The review will involve the views and feedback from local residents and patients from the start.”

Responding to Healthwatch’s concerns around any move of the Homerton’s mental health beds, an East London Foundation Trust spokesperson said: “No decisions have been taken at this stage. All organisations involved would have to carry out an extensive consultation with partners and local people to explore the best way forward to meet the future mental health needs of local residents.

“Any decision would be based on a range of factors including ways to best meet the health needs of Hackney residents and patients.”


EDIT: This article was updated at 11:40 on Monday 5 November to include comment from Cllr Feryal Demirci.


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