Ambulance service sets up ‘paramedic academy’ to attract home-grown talent – and heads back to Australia for 200 new recruits

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London Ambulance Service is setting up its own training “academy” in a bid to attract more home-grown talent to become paramedics.

The initiative comes as the LAS announced a third visit to Australia to recruit 200 foreign staff – amid plans to offer London medics the chance of a career break Down Under.

The under-pressure service sees foreign paramedics as a key way of quickly plugging its 400 front-line vacancies. Staff shortages mean it continues to miss NHS response-time targets to 999 calls.

Last month it reached 66.5 per cent of the most serious emergencies within eight minutes – the target is 75 per cent.

It normally takes three years for universities to train paramedics but the LAS training school aims to do it in two. Courses will be run at existing LAS education centres.

The academy – an ambulance alternative to the Met police college in Hendon – is due to enrol its first 50 students in January. Candidates – either LAS junior emergency crew or people new to the service – will be paid a salary as they train “on the job” as they work up to fully qualified paramedic status.

Recruitment staff will spend two weeks in Sydney and Melbourne in September seeking to lure newly-qualified Australian and New Zealand paramedics to the capital.

Previous trips last September and in March saw about 400 come to London. They are offered salaries starting at £30,563 and rising to £39,452. Paramedics have also been recruited from the US, Poland and Germany.

The ability of the foreign recruits is said to be “variable”. Some are quickly available for front-line duties while others need to be “Londonised” to improve their driving skills and familiarise them with the Tube and other likely medical challenges.

It can also be revealed that London staff could be heading in the opposite direction in the wake of the departure of LAS operations director Jason Killens, who is becoming chief executive of South Australia Ambulance Service.

Precise details are still to be worked out. But LAS chief executive Dr Fionna Moore said: “Hopefully when Jason is in post, we will look to do thinks like exchanging staff.”

LAS chairman Richard Hunt said: “Having ‘embedded’ someone in Australia, we would like to take advantage of it.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s flying visit to London’s Air Ambulance

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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the Royal London helipad

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the Royal London helipad. Picture by Nigel Pacquette

Jeremy Hunt today met patients saved by London’s Air Ambulance as he saw how the capital’s only emergency helicopter delivers trauma care to hundreds of people a year.

The Health Secretary was flown in the helicopter from its overnight base at RAF Northolt to the helipad at the Royal London hospital, in Whitechapel, where he saw a simulation of how some patients are taken down into the major trauma unit.

Jeremy Hunt air ambulance 4

Meeting the air aumbulance team and survivors Aderonke Joseph and Dr Chloe Baker Picture by Nigel Pacquette

He met Aderonke Joseph, who had her lower right leg amputated after being hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing in Shoreditch in January, and Dr Chloe Baker, 29, who was run over by a lorry in East Sheen as she cycled to a lecture at medical school in 2007. Dr Baker went on to become an an intensive care doctor at the Royal London.

Jeremy Hunt air ambulance 3

Mock cyclist injury. Picture by Nigel Pacquette

Mr Hunt, who saw a mock demonstration of the treatment given to a cyclist who had collided with a bus, praised the air ambulance team for “providing vital support to critically ill trauma patients across London”.

Jeremy Hunt air ambulance 2

Mr Hunt then went down to the Royal London’s emergency department, where he saw the handover of the “patient” from the air ambulance medics to the hospital team.

He also answered the “code red” phone for major trauma cases (speaking to a member of the LAA ground crew), and completing a sheet which details the patient’s assessment and treatment by the LAA team.

This information is used by the hospital team to immediately put in place all staff required for the patient’s treatment.

Trauma call: Jeremy Hunt answers the emergency department 'Code red' phone

Trauma call: Jeremy Hunt answers the emergency department ‘Code red’ phone

Mr Hunt said: “It was a privilege to meet staff and former patients to talk about their experiences, and to see how the team handle the toughest calls – from initial incident response to the handover with Royal London Hospital’s Emergency Department for further treatment.”

The air ambulance was set up as a charity in 1989 and is a partnership between the NHS, Barts Health – which runs the Royal London – and the London Ambulance Service. It is fundraising for a second helicopter. Its medics treat an average of five critically ill people a day.

The emergency department team at the Royal London, with Barts Health chief executive Alwen Williams and Jeremy Hunt

The emergency department team at the Royal London, with Barts Health chief executive Alwen Williams (first left) and Jeremy Hunt

Crisis shortage of nurses forces London hospitals to close operating theatres and wards

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Hospitals wards and operating theatres are being closed because of a “perfect storm” shortage of nurses in London.

Barts Health, which runs five east London hospitals, has almost 1,200 vacancies – one in five of its nurses and midwives.

Almost one in six nursing posts were vacant in May at the Royal Free trust, which has three north London hospitals, at Imperial College Healthcare – which has five west London hospitals – and at St George’s Healthcare, which has two in south west London.

Experts believe the capital is short of “several thousand” nurses. Jan Stevens, interim chief nurse at Barts Health, said: “It’s like a perfect storm. Everyone is fishing in the same pond for nurses but there is a shortage.

“This is not just for Barts Health – it just looks worse for us because we are the biggest trust in the country. Obviously the vacancies we have sound staggering, but there are a lot of vacancies across the country.”

Some of the worst problems are at St Bartholomew’s hospital, where the new Barts Heart Centre has been forced to close two theatres and two catheter labs. Staff shortages have forced the closure of 15 per cent of beds at the hospital, in Smithfield, the Barts Health board was told yesterday (Wednesday).

Professor Charles Knight, director of Barts Heart Centre, said it had 120 nurse vacancies. Eighty job offers have been made, including to 44 nurses from the Philippines. “The Philippines nurses are taking a lot longer to reach us than we anticipated,” he said. “It may be that 44 turns into 20.”

At Whipps Cross hospital, in Leytonstone, staff shortages have forced the closure of a midwife-led birth unit on 15 days so far this year. Beds were also closed on the trauma and orthopaedic wards at Whipps Cross.

Inspectors from Health Education England have sounded the alarm over two “adverse incidents” at Newham hospital’s maternity unit relating to a lack of cover.

Across the trust, 46 “red flag” warnings were raised in June in relation to staffing.

The shortage of permanent staff has sent the trust’s bill for agency staff and overtime soaring to £14.3 million a month.

As a result, Barts Health is facing a £134.9 million deficit by next March, the biggest ever seen in the NHS, and surpassing its £78 million deficit in 2014/15, itself a NHS record loss.

Demand for nurses has been driven across the country by new safer staffing ratios introduced after the Mid Staffs scandal and by hospitals having to care for older, sicker patients after the failure of care in the community initiatives. It takes three years to train a nurse.

The nurse shortage at Barts Health more than doubled from 562 full-time posts in March (2015) to 1,173 in June, partly as a result of the opening of Barts Heart Centre.

Barts Health estimates it will take until February 2017 before it can reduce vacancies to five per cent. It expects to have to make more than 9,500 job offers to plug the gaps across all its services due to the one in seven staff who quit each year.

Recruitment interviews are being conducted via Skype to assess partly-vetted foreign candidates. Barts Health is also recruiting from Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Croatia.

About 100 student nurses from London universities are due to join the trust in September.

However the trust’s position as a “failing” organisation is proving a barrier, alongside the battle to retain new recruits for longer than a year.

“They can burn out,” Ms Stevens said. “It’s relentless out there on these wards. They’re so, so busy.”

Regulator intervenes amid fears of financial meltdown at ’24 Hours in A&E’ hospital

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NHS regulators today intervened in the hospital trust that runs one of London’s four major trauma centres in a bid to avert financial meltdown and tackle delays in treating patients.

Monitor, the watchdog for self-governing foundation trusts, ordered immediate improvements at St George’s Healthcare only five months after it was allowed to run its own affairs.

The move is embarrassing for St George’s, which features in the Channel 4 TV documentary 24 Hours in A&E, and comes amid fears it is on course for a £46.2 million deficit – the third worst among foundation trusts.

The trust runs St George’s hospital, in Tooting, and Queen Mary’s in Roehampton and is the largest healthcare provider in south west London, caring for 1.3 million people. It has repeatedly missed the four-hour A&E target and 18-week deadline to refer patients for planned operations, as well as the 62-day cancer treatment deadlines.

It has insufficient capacity to ease the backlog of operations and a shortage of funding. At one stage it was feared its losses, which were £16.8 million in 2014/15, could reach £75 million by next March. Today it declared itself a “distressed provider” as it sought bail-out funds.

This is the second intervention by Monitor in south west London after ordering improvements two weeks ago at Kingston hospital, where an £8.8 million deficit is feared.

Mark Turner, regional director at Monitor said: “St George’s faces some serious financial challenges and needs to act decisively, so that patients can continue to receive quality healthcare.

“Our action is designed to support the trust in getting a better grip on its finances by improving their financial management and planning.

“These steps if implemented effectively and promptly should enable the trust to stabilise its financial position and improve how it is run.”

St George’s said in a statement:

Our board of directors acknowledges these findings by Monitor and has agreed a series of actions with the regulator to ensure the trust has robust recovery plans in place.

The trust is committed to establishing a stronger financial footing and is revisiting its current £43m saving plans and to identify new areas of cost improvement and income growth.

Tighter controls for budget holders, reduced use of temporary staff and a more focused approach to recruitment is already having a positive impact on the finances. In addition, staff have submitted nearly 100 ideas on how to improve efficiency and reduce waste whilst keeping patient care as their priority.

Chief Executive Miles Scott said: “The decline in our operational and financial performance occurred at a time when the NHS nationally – particularly hospital trusts – was under a great deal of pressure. Whilst these operational pressures may have hit us harder than other trusts, we take full responsibility for getting the trust back on track financially.

“We have a challenging time ahead of us and are adamant that our increased focus on figures will not be at the expense of quality.

“Patient safety remains paramount. I am proud that we continue to have low mortality rates, impressive results in the national stroke services audit, and – from our most recent CQC inspection – a rating of ‘good’ for our services overall, with some being highlighted as ‘outstanding’.

“We continue to strive for high standards and have confirmed a series of quality checks to sit alongside our saving plans. These will ensure that efficiencies will not compromise the care our staff provide.”

300 right-to-buy cheats caught in London as inspectors warn of rise in fraud by migrants

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A huge increase in right-to-buy council house fraud has been detected in London after the Government made it easier for tenants to buy their own home.

Investigators today revealed they uncovered 300 cases last year involving properties worth more than £26 million – more than double the number detected in the previous year.

In addition, about 1,000 tenants were caught attempting to cash in on the “relentless increases” in the capital’s property market by illegally sub-letting their council home. These tenants were among more than 1,600 people who lost their council homes because of fraud.

The first Protecting the Public Purse report, published today, sounded the alarm at the number of migrants who are not entitled to taxpayer-funded benefits or housing but are making false claims.

This is said to “constitute one of the most significant types of fraud detected by London boroughs” – and is likely to increase significantly as investigators target the area.

They migrants are classed as NRPF – having “no recourse to public funds” – but often use children who are not their own to pretend to be a family in need. A total of 432 cases were detected with a value in excess of £7 million.

NRPF families are entitled to seek assistance, housing and subsistence from their local authority while awaiting or appealing a Home Office decision on their status.

Because this is done locally, it has created the potential for “multiple claims at different councils using the same alleged ‘family’,” the report said.

The cost to taxpayers of supporting one NRPF family is estimated at £25,000 a year. Some boroughs have reported having more than 400 genuine cases.

The right-to-buy qualifying rules were relaxed in 2012, with buyers also offered a bigger discount on the market value – currently up to £103,900 in the capital. This encouraged more tenants to buy their own home.

At least three per cent of right-to-buy applications in London are now thought to be fraudulent, the report said.

Across the 33 boroughs, the value of fraud in 2014/15 rose by 46 per cent on the previous year, from £49.9 million to £73 million, even though there were 2,000 fewer cases detected.

This was because investigators targeted “corporate” fraud such as right-to-buy rather than housing benefit and council tax fraud. The 19,513 cases amounted in value to the largest amount of fraud detected in the last 25 years.

A total of 1,078 cases of disabled parking “blue badge” fraud were detected, worth £514,568.

David Kirk, chairman of the Fraud Advisory Panel, said “very significant” Government spending cuts meant that London boroughs were required to do “more with less”.

He said: “Reducing fraud is one way in which local authorities can make real savings, protect taxpayers’ money and local services and help those who are genuinely in need.”

Doctor appointed new chief of London Ambulance Service after campaign by paramedics

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A trauma expert was today appointed the new boss of the London Ambulance Service after more than 500 paramedics backed a campaign to get her the job.

Dr Fionna Moore, the LAS’s medical director, was confirmed as chief executive after six months as its interim head and immediately pledged to reduce pressure on staff.

The service last year saw response times fall to the slowest in the country as it battled against a soaring number of emergency calls and an exodus of staff.

Dr Fionna Moore: "One of my priorities is to continue to reduce pressure on staff."

Dr Fionna Moore: “One of my priorities is to continue to reduce pressure on staff.”

Dr Moore, a consultant at Charing Cross hospital and the first London trauma director, said: “The last 18 months have been challenging for all our staff, particularly for those working on the front line and in our control room.

“We’ve started to see improvements and one of my priorities is to continue to reduce pressure on staff so we can improve our response to all our patients.”

LAS chairman Richard Hunt said: “The final panel was in complete agreement about the decision to offer Fionna the role. She is a highly experienced leader and is always passionate about patient care.

“Having worked for the Service for 17 years, Fionna knows the organisation well, recognises the challenges we face and is already taking steps to improve patient care and the working lives of our staff.”

Dr Moore, who is married with four adult children, does regular clinical shifts on ambulances, in fast-response cars and with London’s Air Ambulance. She joined LAS as medical director in 1997.

Mick Butler, GMB branch secretary, said the “right candidate” had been selected. “Staff have confidence in Fionna as the leader of London Ambulance Service,” he said.

Feathered friends: how hens are being used to tackle loneliness and depression among the elderly

A pioneering project using hens to tackle loneliness and social exclusion has been launched in London.

Funded by the Big Lottery and endorsed by Boris Johnson after a successful launch in the North East, HenPower involves elderly residents – who are known as hensioners – being given responsibility for care of the animals.

The first hen-houses have been built at residential homes run by Notting Hill housing association in Marylebone and Hammersmith.

Equal Arts, the charity that runs the scheme, said it had improved wellbeing and helped reduce the reliance of some residents on medication.

Ruth Xavier, 80, a hensioner at the home in Penfold Street, Marylebone, used to have chickens during her childhood in Trinidad. “This is really nice,” she said. “It gives me something to do.

“They become like children for me: are they going to be naughty? Are they all right? I go down at night to see that they are in, then I go to bed.”

The first four hens at Penfield Street have been named Lady Gaga, Henrietta, Katie and Renee. Care manager Wendy Wilson said Lady Gaga appeared the most likely to lay the first egg.

“Every day we are out here with anticipation,” she said. “We are not quite sure what we are going to do with it at the moment – whether we are going to cook it, save it, decorate it. We will have a discussion with the residents what we do with the first egg, and who gets it.”

Dani Singer, a creative engagement associate at Equal Arts, said many residents had grown-up with hens, either at home or during wartime evacuation to the countryside.

She said: “The idea of animals being therapeutic in care settings isn’t a new one. In Newcastle they quickly realised that having the hens quickly gave people an element of responsibility and purpose in their lives that perhaps they have been lacking or didn’t have access to since they moved into the care setting.

“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Even people who started out saying ‘I don’t like hens’ or ‘I shan’t be getting involved’, they are out here day in, day out.”

Mr Johnson said: “HenPower is an innovative way to help tackle loneliness and enhance the lives of older Londoners. The capital’s older population is growing and it’s great that Londoners will now have the opportunity to take part in this valuable scheme.”

TfL claims women cyclists are ‘18% less at risk than men’ of being killed or seriously injured (but uses four-year-old data)

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Are women more at risk of being killed cycling in London than men?

The debate has been sparked because six of the eight cycle deaths this year have been of women, and all involved fatal collisions with lorries/HGVs/tipper trucks (as did that of one of the men, Akis Kollaros).

Last month, Rosamund Urwin revealed that all of the 16 women cyclists to die in the last four years in London had been hit by a truck.

Now Boris Johnson has given a full reply to Labour assembly member Fiona Twycross in response to her written question about the apparent over-representation of women in the cycle death statistics.

The key point would appear to be that women are “18 per cent” less at risk than men of being killed or seriously injured cycling in London than men.

However the weakness in this claim is that it is based on statistics gathered (last year) from the period April 2008 to March 2011. As TfL loves to acknowledge, a lot has changed in London since then.

As the reply states, women make up 31 per cent of cycle fatalities in the last decade – but only now account for 26 per cent of all cycle journeys. It would appear that new research is long overdue.

One of this year’s fatal cases, that of Federica Baldassa, came to inquest recently, at which the coroner effectively blamed her death on a moment’s inattention (rather than driver error or flaws in infrastructure).

News reports of the other tragedies are available here:

Stephanie Turner

Claire Hitier-Abadie

Moira Gemmill

Esther Hartsilver

Clifton James

Ying Tao

See here for the full reply from Boris Johnson to Fiona Twycross:

Cyclist Fatalities

Question No: 2015/2427

Fiona Twycross

Six of the eight cyclists killed this year on London’s roads have been women. Women make only a quarter of our city’s bike journeys, yet they represent 39 per cent of adult cycling fatalities in the past six-and-a-half years in London. Has any analysis been done of why this is the case?

Written answer from the Mayor

The number of journeys cycled by women in London has increased by almost 40 per cent between 2005/06 and 2013/14 and female cyclists now make up 26 per cent of all trips by bicycle in London. Overall cyclist KSIs fell by 12 per cent between 2013 and 2014 from 489 to 432.  Within this total female cyclist KSIs fell by 18 per cent from 117 in 2013 to 96 in 2014, while the number of male cyclist KSIs fell by 10 per cent in the same period.

TfL has undertaken analysis of cycling risk. This showed that KSI risk amongst female cyclists is lower than for male cyclists, with analysis showing that KSI risk amongst female cyclists is about 18 per cent lower than amongst male cyclists.  There are about 710 KSIs for every billion km cycled by male cyclists in London compared to about 580 KSIs for every billion km cycled by female cyclists. (source: TfL VRU working paper https://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/safety-and-security/road-safety/safe-streets-for-london time period April 2008 – March 2011)

Looking specifically at fatal injuries, in the past ten years women made up an average of 31% of all cycle fatalities. However, this varies extensively by year. For example, in 2014, 1 out of 13 cyclist fatal casualties were female (8%), in 2013 5 out of 9 were female (36%) and in 2012, 1 out of 14 were female (7%).

TfL studies cycle fatalities extensively. Reports are published on Road Safety pages of the TfL website https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/publications-and-reports/road-safety (under research reports), including: Pedal Cyclist Fatalities: Analysis of Police Collision Files (2007-2011) and Pedal cycle collisions and casualties in Greater London (2011). There is also a Road Safety Action Plan and Cycle Safety Action Plan (under Progress Reports).

My cycling vision is aimed directly at making cycling safer and more attractive to everyone. Through research such as Attitudes to Cycling we know that women are more likely to be deterred from cycling because of fear of collisions (56% compared to 51% of men) or a lack of confidence in their cycling ability (35% vs 16% for men). The Quietways routes that are being developed across London, will be appealing to many women cyclists as they offer quieter alternatives to busy roads.

TfL funds adult cycle training which is offered locally by all 33 London boroughs. Since April 2014 8,268 cycle training sessions have been delivered and approximately 75% of these sessions were filled by Women. TfL and British Cycling have a formal partnership and TfL is working with them to further promote their successful Breeze Women Only led cycle rides.

TfL has committed £4bn to improving London’s roads, with almost £1bn being spent on cycling including delivery of the longest substantially segregated cycleways in Europe, quieter backstreet cycling routes and upgrading the most dangerous junctions.

Tributes to London neurosurgeon killed in motorbike crash

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A London neurosurgeon who was killed riding his motorbike was an “extraordinary” individual who helped save many lives, his family and colleagues said today.

Jan Bodnar, 37, who worked at St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, died when his orange Honda collided with an Audi car as he rode to a show at Duxford airfield and museum in Cambridgeshire.

Jan Bodnar: "The human brain fascinated him and he loved the challenge of it all"

Jan Bodnar: “The human brain fascinated him and he loved the challenge of it all”

A memorial service was held on Monday at Charing Cross hospital, where he first worked when he arrived in the capital in 2010. There was an “outpouring of affection” for Mr Bodnar, a registrar who treated hundreds of trauma, neurosurgical and spinal injury patients across Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

Mark Wilson, a consultant neurosurgeon at St Mary’s, said Mr Bodnar had a particular affinity with injured bikers.

“It became apparent from the way everyone was talking how much he was appreciated by his patients,” Mr Wilson said. “He was an excellent, promising neurosurgeon, loved by his colleagues and his family.”

Dr Mohammed Awad, another colleague, said: “He was a larger than life character with a great aptitude for work and play. He was an extremely capable neurosurgeon and many people owe their lives and wellbeing to his skills.”

Born in Slovakia, Mr Bodnar had a life-long love of aircraft and the intricacies of model-making – which he used to sharpen his surgical skills. He had run 10 marathons and enjoyed diving, rock-climbing, gliding and flying.

Paramedics and the East Anglian Air Ambulance attended but Mr Bodnar was pronounced dead at the scene. Police are appealing for witnesses to the July 12 collision, which happened on the A505 between Baldock and Royston.

Mr Bodnar’s sister Barbara Diop–Bodnarova said: “He specialised in neurosurgery because he had a passion for things that could not be explained and neurosurgery is possibly one of the most difficult areas of medicine. The human brain fascinated him and he loved the challenge of it all.”

She added: “We have dozens of aircraft models he made when he was a young boy and he continued to do it as an adult. He was travelling to Duxford to a show when the collision occurred. He was so passionate about aircraft.

“Jan was so talented, he loved to write poetry, travel and take photographs. He really embraced life and had many interests. Words cannot describe how much we will miss him.”

His father Jozef Bodnár said: “Janko was an extraordinary and beloved human being.”

Extra four patients a day caused chaos at London hospital with worst A&E delays in the country

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A tiny increase in patients plunged a London hospital into crisis after the closure of two neighbouring A&Es, a “hidden” NHS report has revealed.

Northwick Park, in Harrow, suffered the worst delays in the country when an extra 16 patients a day required admission to a ward – just four more a day than predicted.

The hospital’s emergency department and its sister A&E at Ealing normally admit more than 1,000 patients a week. But health chiefs failed to predict the impact of an increasing number of sicker patients – mainly elderly with multiple illnesses – who require care for longer periods, the report found.

London North West Healthcare, which runs Northwick Park and Ealing, recorded the worst performance in the country for at least three weeks last October and November for main A&E patients.

This followed the controversial closure last September of two smaller casualty units at Central Middlesex and Hammersmith hospitals. The NHS England (London) report, which critics said had been quietly “hidden in plain sight” on an NHS website, said the worsening A&E performance in west London last winter was part of a national trend and was “not related” to the closures.

Under the Shaping A Healthier Future shake-up of emergency and maternity care, Northwick Park was predicted to receive an extra 18 A&E patients a day, of which 12 would require admission.

“In practice, 16 additional patients per day required admission,” the report said. “The trust expected the patients admitted to have a length of stay of 3.5 days whereas their actual length of stay was 4.5 days.

“The review shows the combination of four additional patients per day with a longer length of stay meant the hospital had an effective bed deficit of over 20 beds, and this deficit drove the deterioration in the hospital’s A&E performance.”

Andy Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith, who uncovered the report, said: “What this shows is how absolutely fragile the NHS in west London is. Small peaks in demand can send the system into freefall.”

He warned more change was yet to come, with the planned downgrading of A&E units at Charing Cross and Ealing hospitals. “This report should be enough to make people stop, think and properly analyse the effects of going ahead with the rest of the Shaping A Healthier Future programme,” he said.

A spokesman for North West London Clinical Commissioning Groups said: “Nationally A&E performance was affected by a mixture of increased demand and acuity. This led to more people attending A&E and more patients having to be admitted and staying for longer and Northwick Park Hospital was no exception. On the whole our hospitals coped well.

“Since then a new, £21m A&E department at Northwick Park in December and the number of beds available to admit patients has increased, with further plans to increase bed numbers this year.”

Meanwhile, it emerged today that an urgent care centre being used to treat patients judged not sick enough for A&E is a “time bomb”, according to a doctor who revealed safety concerns.

Dr Mike Smith said Ealing hospital’s 24-hour service, which is run by locum GPs and nurses employed by private operator Care UK, is placing patients at risk because of a series of failings.

The revelations will intensify the row over plans to axe the adjacent hospital A&E under plans to concentrate emergency services in five west London “super hospitals”.

An ITV documentary, Exposure, to be shown tomorrow night, used undercover reporters to capture a number of concerning incidents. These included empty medicine cabinets, dire staff shortages, patients being told to take their own temperature and GPs unable to interpret X-rays.

One unnamed GP said there had been cases of women with potentially fatal ectopic pregnancies having to wait three hours to be seen by a GP. The maternity department at Ealing hospital closed earlier this month.

Dr Smith said: “We are going to reach a point where significant harm will come to a patient. This is a time bomb before something very terrible happens to someone in that waiting room.”

Care UK said stocks of medications were monitored closely. A spokesman said in relation to patients taking their own temperatures: “We accept that this does not appear to be good practice.”

Dr Mohini Parmar, chair of Ealing CCG, said: “Whilst we have not yet seen the programme, we take patient safety extremely seriously and as soon as we became aware of the allegations four weeks ago, carried out an urgent clinical visit to assess whether a safe service is being delivered. This found no immediate cause for concern and patients can continue to use the service with confidence. However, we have established a further independent clinical review to fully investigate the issues raised in the programme and make recommendations on any improvements that need to be made. 

“We are ensuring Care UK take any necessary steps to resolve the issues raised in the programme and should the independent review find any areas of poor practice we will take the necessary steps to ensure patients receive a clinically effective service.”

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