Tory health secretary Matt Hancock has dropped plans to axe hospital services across west London after a seven-year battle by campaigners.
Hancock said that the “Shaping a Healthier Future” scheme of cuts, closures and selloffs was no longer supported by Department of Health or NHS England on Tuesday.
The £500 million plans would have meant the closure of nearly half of accident and emergency (A&E) departments in west London.
A&E departments at Ealing Hospital and Charing Cross Hospital in the neighbouring borough of Hammersmith & Fulham would have shut. And Charing Cross would have been forced to sell off 87 percent of its premises to housing developers.
Health campaigners have welcomed the withdrawal of closure plans.
Anne Drinkell is chair of the Save Our Hospitals campaign, which has been fighting to keep services at Charing Cross. She told Socialist Worker the announcement was a testament to “the diversity of people involved and how we’ve stuck to it”.
“This is the end of a long story, with pushes and victories along the way,” she said. “What’s helped keep us going is knowing that we’re part of something bigger, a wider fight to save the health service.”
Eric Leach, vice chair of the Ealing Save Our NHS campaign, told Socialist Worker, “The battle is not over.”
“We’re lobbying to get back the child A&E, maternity and paediatrics services, new investment and for any capital bids to go to towards the outstanding repair bill,” he said.
The health plans are deeply unpopular and have damaged the Tories in west London.
Hancock made the announcement in response to a parliamentary question from Greg Hands, Tory MP for Chelsea and Fulham. Hands saw his majority halved from 4,022 to 8,188 at the last general election in June 2017.
And Labour took control of the Hammersmith and Fulham council in 2014 and increased their majority in 2018 by focusing in the health plans.
The Labour-run councils in Hammersmith & Fulham and Ealing have worked with health campaigners and organised their own public meetings and demonstrations. This would not have happened without strong local health campaigns.
Health campaigners in west London are now taking up other fights to defend the NHS and local services. Anne said, “The announcement is a significant turnaround and it means we can fight other cuts.
“There are £30 million in primary health cuts planned for Hammersmith and Fulham by April 2020.”
Eric said the arrangement should “give encouragement to people across England” who are fighting similar battles.