Mayor answers to London
Question by Onkar Sahota
What actions have you taken to safeguard the future of Ealing Hospital?
Answer by Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Thank you very much, Onkar, and welcome. The difficulty I have with hospital configurations in London is that I do not have direct responsibility for them, but I can lobby for and against changes that are patently not in the interests of Londoners. I am aware of the campaign that you have been running; I am aware of the anxieties in the area about the closure of Ealing Hospital. I know also that there is a consultation going on now about that proposal and I think it probably best if I reserve my opinion on it until I have seen the outcome of that consultation.
Onkar Sahota (AM): Mr Mayor, I really appreciate you answering this question. Of course, I recognise that you often do intervene in matters which are not your responsibility. I believe the 50 pence text was an example of it. You did lobby very carefully for that and had the ear of the Secretary of State, and we were speaking earlier on about transport matters. You do have the ear of the Secretary of State of Health. This is an important matter to my constituents. I fought the election on this. It is a very important hospital which serves the local community and I expect you to intervene on behalf of Londoners. Can you tell me what steps you can take besides the one you have already outlined? You have the ear of the Secretary of State, but what else can you do, please?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I have to confess to you, in spite of the very successful campaign which you ran, which I congratulate you upon obviously I mourn the departure of Richard Barnes (former Assembly Member) clearly you struck a path or echo with your constituents. But I have to say I campaigned a lot in Ealing and it was not raised with me, so it was not something that people brought to me. So your question to me today is really the first time this has been escalated to me. I do want to see what happens in the consultation. What I can generally say is that he difficulty that we seem to have got into is that a programme of reconfiguration, which was well advanced when I became Mayor. I remember Ruth Carnall, who used to run the Strategic Health Authority in London, had a very far advanced programme to reconfigure hospitals. That was basically discontinued.
The difficulty now and I think this applies in Ealing as well, is that across the city you have big Private Funded Initiative (PFI) hospitals adjacent to much loved community hospitals. Because of the PFI that Andrew Dismore helped set up when he was part of the Labour Government I will just chuck that one in it has been very, very difficult for some of these hospitals to make a business case. That has been the problem.
Onkar Sahota (AM): Mr Mayor, the real issue is that the consultation process is looking at the choice between Ealing Hospital and West Middlesex, and West Middlesex is a PFI hospital. It is a very damned choice because the die is already cast against Ealing Hospital in giving that choice. I think you have an obligation, because 100,000 people attend Ealing Hospital and 40% of them get admitted to hospital again. I think it is your responsibility in equalities of health also, in healing inequality, and I really want you to give an undertaking that you will intervene and protect my constituents for this hospital, just like I have been fighting for them.
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Absolutely, Onkar, and I respect your view as a clinician about this problem. For me what matters are clinical outcomes. Before I make any further rash commitments to you about joining your bandwagon, as it were, I think I had better look at the argument more closely, the argument about clinical outcomes, which is, after all, the thing I really have to promote as Mayor. We have to eradicate health inequalities. Not only is that part of our statutory duty, there are some areas of healthcare where London is way behind where it should be. The argument that has been put to me by clinicians, by the strategic Health Authority, has been that reorganisation is essential if you are going to drive up standards of care. I have to be mindful of that case and that argument when I consider important representations of the kind that you make about Ealing Hospital.
Onkar Sahota (AM): Just a last point. For the record, this proposal does not enjoy clinical support at all. It is not clinically led. It is led by the Northwest London cluster. Local GPs are against it, local consultants are against it, local people are against it. I hope this Government listens, I hope you will listen and I hope you will intervene.
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Onkar, you have made your point very powerfully today. I hope we can work together to see what we can do to represent the interests of people in this mater.