By Owen Sheppard and Julia Gregory
The Urgent Treatment Centre at Hammersmith Hospital has closed from 8am today for an unknown period of time due to the coronavirus outbreak.
A local NHS spokesman said the centre in Du Cane Road, White City, will remain closed “for as long as it needs to be, there is no time scale.”
The announcement came on March 19 at about 2pm and was made by Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the NHS body which manages the centre.
A statement on the CGG’s website reads: “We have taken the difficult decision to temporarily close the Hammersmith Hospital Urgent Treatment Centre with immediate effect from 8am on Friday, March 20.”
Patients who need treatment for COVID-19 are being screened and segregated from other patients upon arrival at the Urgent Care Centre at Charing Cross Hospital.
The CGG’s statement continues: “The urgent treatment centre at Hammersmith Hospital has neither the space nor the clinical capacity to segregate patients at the front door in this way. Charing Cross also has an emergency department [A&E] in case a patient is taken seriously ill.
“This is an unavoidable decision, taken as an emergency measure to help us deal with the developing major incident around COVID-19. We plan to return to business as usual once the emergency is over.”
Merril Hammer – a coordinator of the local ‘Save Our NHS’ campaign that battled to protect Charing Cross Hospital – said the decision could be bad news for residents in the poorest areas of Hammersmith and Fulham.
“We note, yet again, it is the poorer part of the borough,” said Ms Hammer.
“We all expect the corona crisis to run for some time. The CCG should be taking serious steps to ensure that people from the north of the borough are able to seek urgent care locally.
“We know that travel from that part of the borough to either Charing Cross or St Mary’s hospitals can be difficult. And even more so if there are young children to manage or if people are elderly or disabled.”
With the Urgent Treatment Centre due to close, residents who need urgent medical attention for anything non-life-threatening can alternatively visit the Parsons Green Walk-In Centre in Fulham.
Patients are also being asked not to turn up for outpatients appointments by a West London hospital trust.
Imperial College NHS Trust has put out an appeal yesterday to the hundreds of patients with outpatients appointments over the next few weeks.
It said: “Unless we contact you to say otherwise please do not come to the hospital for your outpatient appointment.”
Instead doctors will call patients within an hour of their scheduled appointment for a telephone consultation.
The move aims to help the thousands of front-line staff at St Mary’s Paddington, Charing Cross in Fulham, Queen Charlotte’s Chelsea maternity, Western Eye and Hammersmith hospitals “concentrate our efforts on those who need care most urgently and best protect our patients and staff from coronavirus.”
An 89-year-old woman with coronavirus died at Fulham’s Charing Cross Hospital last week. She had a pre-existing condition.
The trust has said that unless it has asked patients to come to hospital the it has cancelled all non-urgent planned surgery. It has also postponed endoscopies and they will be rebooked in due course.
Meanwhile, like other trusts it has also reduced visiting times to just three hours from 4pm to 7pm.
Children are not allowed at all and patients can only have one visitor at a time.
People should not go to hospital at all if they are feeling unwell, including if they have cold or flu symptoms.
Visitors should also follow strict hygiene rules and must wash their hands or use gel as soon as they go into a ward.
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Cheques should be made payable to “MSI Media Limited” and sent by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online. Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.
Get the latest local news delivered every week!