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Time running out for Ealing residents to get engaged with West London NHS Trust on future of the borough’s mental health services

Mental health and well being is top of the agenda for many in Ealing but residents only have until 28 February 2023 to express their views on the provision and future of inpatient mental health services in the borough.

The services, which are provided by the local West London NHS Trust, are said by campaigners to be under threat with changes and residents are being asked to take part in an engagement process that has been going on since October 2022.

Councillor Daniel Crawford, chair of Ealing Council’s Health and Adult Social Services Standing Scrutiny Panel is encouraging residents across the borough to take part in the process and give their views on what is needed in Ealing as he told EALING.NEWS: “My concern is not enough people know that there is engagement going on”.

Yesterday (19 January 2023) the trust held a walk around wards in St Bernard’s Hospital along with a Q&A with concerned local people. But only around six members of the public attended the two hour session which provided an opportunity for NHS campaigners and local residents to ask questions directly to NHS bosses.

Changes being proposed include what will happen to 31 beds currently not being used in the Wolsey Wing at the Hope and Horizon wards in the Victorian-built St Bernard’s Hospital. According to the Trust, the existing wards are out of date and don’t meet many of the requirements for modern care.

Councillor Crawford highlighted more of his concerns to EALING.NEWS:

“What we’ve got at the moment are proposals to close the wards where people come for acute mental health care, they are ailing residents and residents of other boroughs but mainly Ealing residents in Hope and Horizon. It’s important to say that I recognise these wards are deemed unsafe so we do need to make a change here. What I’m concerned about at the moment, is the impact that closing these wards would have on the general population of Ealing and surrounding boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham and Hounslow.

“We are going to lose beds and they are not at the moment going to be replaced in Ealing. So there will be an impact on future services that is yet to be fully established, because we don’t know what the replacement services are going to look like. That is what the NHS is engaging on at the moment.”


According to Councillor Crawford and campaigners across Ealing, without engagement residents will not know what is happening or being proposed to mental health services in Ealing.

“Unfortunately, the engagement process has been inefficient. We’ve walked around these wards and we’ve seen that they are unfit for purpose. They were built a long time ago. And the facilities have not kept pace with what has been an increase in levels of care and support for people going through really difficult, challenging times.

“My concern is not enough people know that there is engagement going on and will remain ongoing until the 28 February 2023. And not enough is known about the impact of these changes because they could leave us losing facilities to care for people going through acute mental health crisis at a time when there is a crisis in all aspects of mental health.

“So we’ve got a problem and I’m against the loss of any beds or any services at Ealing hospital. And as a counsellor and as the chair of the Health scrutiny panel, we’ve held a strong view that the NHS should invest in local services at Ealing hospital and reverse the trend of many, many decades where the investment went for newer hospitals in other parts of North West London. I’m pleased that we are turning that around. We do have around £30 million of investment into Ealing Hospital, but if we’re still losing mental health services at a time when there is a mental health crisis, I think clearly there’s an imbalance there.

Campaigners from Ealing Save Our NHS are worried that services to help people may be cut with plans to reduce beds.

Some fear that if the beds are cut along with other facilities at the site, the land could be used for a housing development similar to other parts of St Bernard’s which have been turned into residential accommodation.

In a statement, West London NHS Trust said: “There is poor ventilation, limited access to outdoor space and unsafe design elements, which could be used to cause harm. In particular, the Wolsey Wing, which was built more than 100 years before the NHS was founded, was deemed not fit for delivering modern health services.”

Dr Christopher Hilton, psychiatrist and chief operating officer for local services in West London NHS Trust told EALING.NEWS: “We’re grateful to those who have fed back in the engagement process so far. We’re especially keen to hear from individuals or their loved ones, who have used the services in recent years. The inpatient facilities for adult mental health services are no longer fit for purpose for the delivery of modern mental healthcare. They were suspended in 2020 at the start of the pandemic and as a clinician I’d be concerned to reopen them and reverse the other temporary changes that were put into place, such as the opening of alternative modern facilities at Lakeside, in Hounslow.”

Mr Hilton added: “Despite pressures on the NHS, there is no expectation around cost savings from our proposed changes – as all of the money is ring-fenced for local reinvestment and our focus is primarily on ensuring that the inpatient facilities we do run are safe and of high quality”.


Ealing Save Our NHS presenting Mental Health petition
Ealing Save Our NHS presenting Mental Health petition

Local campaign group Ealing Save Our NHS has presented a petition to NHS bosses to re-instate these beds for adults and children who need them and have also produced a report setting out their concerns.

In its report, Ealing Save Our NHS said:

“This proposed cut would leave the whole borough with no acute adult mental health beds for anyone under 65 and leave many Ealing patients in a worse position than comparable boroughs. Although 17 more beds have been re-designated as acute beds at Lakeside in Hounslow (Robin Ward) using the money saved from closing the 31 beds in Ealing, that’s still an unacceptable cut of 14 much needed acute beds and a serious reduction in capacity not just for Ealing, but for the associated boroughs of Hounslow and Hammersmith & Fulham.

“Since 2010, 70 mental health beds have been closed in Ealing, including Hope & Horizon – so to cut another 14 across the Trust should be totally unacceptable, especially as it would leave our Borough bereft of acute adult beds.

The group further raised concerns about what it feels has been a low level of consultation taking place.

“Despite the large quantity of slide and statistics, it appears the Trust have chosen not to categorise the overall loss of beds and lack of adult acute beds for under 65’s for Ealing as ‘significant’. So instead of an actual consultation they are merely obliged to offer engagement. Meanwhile, we understand that the Trust is already advertising for additional staff to run their Ealing Crisis Team from the Hammersmith and Hounslow sites – which clearly suggests its engagement with the public and local authorities is purely cosmetic.

“The poorly advertised three online public events were only attended by a total of 7 members of the public (the majority being from Ealing Save Our NHS). At these events the presenters were eager to steer the attendees into discussion about bus fares for families travelling out of Ealing, rather than the actual decision to close wards. The issue seemed to be more opaque by the frequent references to other non-acute services in Ealing, which are of course not a substitute.”

Eve Turner, secretary of Ealing Save Our NHS said: “Hope and Horizon wards are the last two acute mental health wards in Ealing which can take for adults under 65. Closing them would be a loss of vital beds that the area can ill afford and it means adults in crisis being sent out of the borough away from their support networks. Children in severe crisis are already sent out of Ealing.”

Initially the consultation was due to end on 13 January 2023 but following talks with Ealing Council, West London NHS Trust extended the consultation until 28 February 2023 so more people can find out what is being planned and to engage in the consultation.

Councillor Daniel Crawford, chair of Ealing Council’s Health and Adult Social Services Standing Scrutiny Panel
Councillor Daniel Crawford, chair of Ealing Council’s Health and Adult Social Services Standing Scrutiny Panel

Councillor Crawford spoke about what he would like to see in Ealing.

“I want to see increased investment in Ealing Hospital in all of its disciplines, returning all of the services that were suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic, so people have access to safe, high quality, world’s leading healthcare because it’s what they deserve. And it’s frankly, what the Labour Party has campaigned on. And what what we’ve told residents that we will continue to campaign on having saved Ealing Hospital and in Charing Cross Hospital with our colleagues in Hammersmith and Fulham .

“We know that it’s a really difficult funding position for the NHS at the moment. So it’s going to take some time to get to that point. What is not going to help, frankly, is short term decisions made on a financial basis rather than than a clinical basis.

“So in respect of the mental health services here, it’s clear that we need to make some changes to the wards where I have a massive concern is that we may make things worse in the short term for ailing residents by losing the capacity here and not being more imaginative in these proposals.

“And what I would ask Ealing residents to do is to by showing interest in this engagement process and encourage people to participate in the surveys that are ongoing in the engagement exercises. Because today we’re talking about mental health. Next year, in the next round of consultations, we could be talking about another service because that’s how threadbare the NHS financial settlement is. They have to look at everything from a financial point of view and we know that high quality healthcare costs.

“My ambition for Ealing Hospital is that we can keep our best nurses and doctors here whilst training new ones. And I’m not prepared to sacrifice that because it costs a little bit more money.”

Ealing residents can express their views and find out more about the plans for Horizon and Hope wards at St Bernard’s Hospital by clicking here.

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