Activists called on north-west London residents yesterday to vote against any A&E closures after revealing two trusts were using public money to campaign to downgrade "rival" hospitals in a desperate bid to avoid government-imposed cuts.
Shocked Save Our Hospitals campaigners contacted the Morning Star after their letterboxes were swamped with leaflets from West Middlesex University and Chelsea and Westminster Trusts.
The hospitals form part of NHS North West London, which is proposing to downgrade services at four of the nine trusts in the region in a bid to meet the government's imposed "efficiency savings" by 2015.
It has launched a public consultation asking local residents to choose between option A, B or C with the chosen option seeing some trusts keeping their A&E while others will lose theirs and be downgraded to "local" hospitals.
The leaflets, urging residents to vote option A, warned: "If we are downgraded to a 'local hospital' without full A&E, most of our services including maternity and children's services would close."
But they neglect to mention that voting A would mean the closure of A&Es at four other hospitals - Charing Cross, Ealing, Hammersmith and Central Middlesex.
The group said this amounts to trusts using public money to actively campaign to close other hospital's A&E departments.
It has prompted local campaigners to mass produce their own leaflets (right) encouraging people to vote "D for dissent" against the closure of any A&Es in the region.
A spokeswoman said: "Our campaign's view is to keep all our A&E departments open and to look at alternatives to downgrading our local health services."
GMB national NHS officer Rehana Azam said: "If this is the result of government cuts and privatisation - trusts that are pitted against each other using desperate measures just to stay afloat - then I dread to think what the future holds.
"It's the stark consequence of creeping competition within our NHS."
While Labour MP for Hammersmith Andy Slaughter, who has been campaigning vigorously to keep all the A&Es open, told the Star: "It's a disgrace that NHS trusts are using public money to campaign for the closure of four hospital's A&E departments."
NHS North West London spokesman Luke Blair assured that it was not running campaigns for any of the options.
But Chelsea and Westminster Hospital chief executive Tony Bell said: "Our Safe in our hands campaign is a positive way to encourage patients and local residents to support the recommended Option A in the Shaping a healthier future public consultation.
"The campaign also aims to ensure that patients and local people are aware of the consultation and the consequences for Chelsea and Westminster Hospital."
A spokesman for West Middlesex University Hospital said it had been encouraging people to take part in NHS North West London's consultation.
"As part of this, we have been explaining why we support the Shaping a healthier future programme's preferred option, where West Middlesex would retain and expand its high performing A&E, maternity and children's services."
A save Hammersmith and Charing Cross hospitals march and rally will be held on Saturday October 6. Visit www.saveourhospitals.net for further updates.
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