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My son could die without Whittington A&E

PUBLISHED: 10:38 25 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:47 07 September 2010

Ben McPartland A FEARFUL young mother says NHS bosses who drew up plans to close the Whittington Hospital s A&E department are putting the life of her young son in danger. Galia Wilson s claim that the life of two-year-old Arlo, who suffers from acute epi

Ben McPartland

A FEARFUL young mother says NHS bosses who drew up plans to close the Whittington Hospital's A&E department are putting the life of her young son in danger.

Galia Wilson's claim that the life of two-year-old Arlo, who suffers from acute epilepsy, will be threatened, has been backed up by senior medical staff at the Whittington who made their voices heard for the first time this week.

Several staff, including senior members of the medical team, contacted the Ham&High, insisting the healthcare of patients in the area will be put on the line if the A&E closes and Hampstead's Royal Free becomes the nearest casualty unit.

Arlo, who has suffered numerous life threatening seizures because of his epilepsy, is one of the patients whose care would be affected. Doctors and nurses at the Whittington A&E have saved his life on numerous occasions. The thought of losing that resource is horrifying to his mother.

Ms Wilson, 38, of Highbury, told the Ham&High: "In an ambulance with the blue lights on it takes about five minutes to get to the Whittington. I have lost count of how many times we have had to do that journey. One driver told me the Royal Free is another five or 10 minutes away. That could mean life or death for my son who is only two years old. The thought fills me with sheer despair.

"The staff at the Whittington are key but so is the proximity. I don't even want to think about what might happen to my son. When he has a seizure literally every minute counts and the sooner we get him to the hospital the better. The staff are experts at rescuing him from his seizures. I am indebted to them."

The unpopular proposals to close the A&E were first uncovered in November when a letter was sent to NHS staff detailing plans to reshuffle services. NHS bosses visited the Ham&High recently to spell out the seven possible options for the restructure, two of which would see the A&E closed outright and another two would see it closed for eight overnight hours.

The NHS North Central London's programme director Stephen Conroy insists the proposals were driven by safety and quality of care but this week staff at the hospital, who fear A&E closure could spell the end for the Whittington, rubbished that view.

Speaking on condition of anonymity a senior medic told the Ham&High: "We don't believe closing our A&E is going to improve the care of our local people. We don't think this has been thought through. The consultation has been rushed through on a politician's time table. We are concerned that key decisions have already been taken. We want a full and frank discussion in public about the proposals.

"We are very anxious that changes are not made until we are confident they will be of benefit to the health care of local people and are not being put through just to meet some unattainable financial black hole."

The medic, who said staff have been boosted by the Ham&High's support, added: "Access to the Royal Free hospital is so poor. We know that the ambulance staff don't like going there because of the problems of access. Journey times will be increased. If ambulance times are extended then clearly that is one of the reasons why the health of our local population will be put at risk."

Dozens of staff at the Whittington are expected to blend in with the thousands on Saturday's march to the hospital from Highbury Corner in defence of the Whittington.

This week the Tory party candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green, Richard Merrin, said his party would halt the review of NHS services in north London if his party was elected but his promise was denounced by Labour candidate and Unison health chief Karen Jennings. She supports the review but does not want to see the A&E closed.

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