Government-commissioned study suggests figure could be cut by a quarter through measures including charge on new arrivals
The coalition has launched a fresh assault on so-called health tourists by saying short-term immigrants and foreign visitors should pay more than £500m a year towards the cost of their NHS care.
Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, will present a new analysis suggesting temporary migrants are costing the NHS up to £2bn a year, and arguing this could be reduced by a quarter through a charge on new arrivals, better enforcement of the current rules and discouraging people from abusing the system.
The Department of Health commissioned the research after a political row erupted this year over how much health tourism costs the UK. Hunt was heavily criticised for claiming that it cost the taxpayer significantly more than £200m a year, while the NHS had only recorded £33m of charges to foreign nationals, of which £12m was written off.
Hunt will claim that the analysis by Creative Research is vindication of his figures, as MPs prepare to debate the new immigration bill. This will impose a £200 surcharge on temporary migrants coming to Britain for six to 12 months, paid when they arrive, to help cover the cost of their medical care. Creative Research said this would raise about £200m a year.
The report says the cost of immigrants who are already in Britain but not eligible for free treatment is £388m. Hunt is appointing a new NHS director of costs, Sir Keith Pearson, to help the health service get better at charging this group of immigrants for treatment.
The research estimates that the taxpayer will save between £70m and £300m because the government's tougher approach to discouraging health tourists will deter many trying to get free treatment in Britain.
"These independent reports prove this is a serious problem that the government was right to address," said Hunt. "We are confident our new measures will make the NHS fairer and more sustainable for the British families and taxpayers it was set up to serve."
The claims were challenged by Labour, and doctors raised concerns that GPs did not have the capacity to act as border guards monitoring patients' immigration status.
Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs, dismissed Hunt's initiative, saying GPs "must not be the Border Agency", adding: "You are more likely to be cared for by an immigrant than encounter a health tourist in the queue."
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association's GP committee, said there was "limited evidence to suggest that migrants or short-term visitors are consuming large parts of the NHS budget".
"The government's estimates are based on a number of assumptions that result in a figure significantly higher than previous estimates," he said. "GPs and other healthcare professionals do not have the capacity or the resources to administer an extended charging system that could require GPs to extensively vet every single patient when they register with a new practice.
"This would cause inconvenience to all patients and put additional strain on already overstretched GP services that are currently under pressure from rising patient demand and falling resources. It is doubtful that the expensive bureaucracy required to support an extended charging system would recoup enough money to cover the costs of setting it up in the first place."
Nagpaul also warned the government not to deter people from seeking treatment when they needed it. "Not only would this present a risk to the health of that individual, it could also prevent the NHS from identifying individuals with contagious diseases and result in further costs to the NHS should a patient's condition deteriorate to the extent they require more expensive emergency treatment later on," he said.
A Labour source claimed the figures produced by the government were already unravelling.
The report itself contains a note of caution, saying all of its estimates are "subject to varying degrees of uncertainty, relating to the numbers of people and their behaviour".
"The estimates for health tourism, as for any unlawful activity, are impossible to estimate with confidence and are a structured judgment," it says. "The estimates for chargeability are also uncertain because of the complexity of the rules. The estimates are presented as the best that can be made at present, recognising that they are based on incomplete data, sometimes of varying quality, and a large number of assumptions. The analysis is intended to inform policy development around visitor and migrant access to NHS, alongside the DH consultation and work with the NHS."
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said his party was in favour of charging people with no entitlement to NHS treatment, but the government-backed report appeared to be "more about spin than substance".
"The government's own report undermines their headline-grabbing figures, admitting they are based on old and incomplete data," he said. "Instead of grandstanding, the government need to focus on delivering practical changes. Labour would not support changes that make doctors and nurses surrogate immigration officials."
A spokesman for Hunt said the analysis was based on two separate reports from independent expert market research consultancies – Prederi and Creative Research – which were reviewed by three independent peer reviewers with expertise in modelling and health research.Rowena MasonDenis Campbell
New facility will replace existing hospital on Royal Victoria site after funds were reallocated from stalled A5 road project
Stormont's finance minister was so "shocked and ashamed" about conditions in Northern Ireland's main children's hospital that he has allocated £250m to build a new one.
Simon Hamilton announced on Monday that a new facility would be built on the site of the current children's hospital on the Royal Victoria hospital site in west Belfast.
The new hospital complex for sick children will be completed by 2021/2022.
The Democratic Unionist minister said he was shaken by a recent visit to the children's hospital at the Royal.
His department has extra funds available for the NHS in Northern Ireland after the A5 road project linking the Irish Republic to Derry via the western counties of the province was stalled.
Commenting on the extra funds available, Hamilton said: "The allocations I have announced today will leave a lasting economic impact on Northern Ireland, boost our economy as the recovery gathers momentum and provide assistance for vulnerable people in our society.
"I am especially pleased that we are able to fund a new regional children's hospital and significant strategic roads improvements."
The assembly health minister, Edwin Poots, welcomed the additional money which he said would help provide services fit for the 21st century for children.
"A replacement regional children's hospital is a major project that I have been keen to take forward, particularly as parts of the current facilities are nearly 100 years old," he said.
"Securing this additional funding from the executive provides me with the opportunity to move this much-needed project forward to ensure that our children will receive their care and treatment in a modern paediatric environment."Henry McDonald
Exclusive: Department of Health forced to issue new guidelines after patient safety charity threatens to seek judicial review
Hospitals will be banned from refusing to investigate complaints from patients harmed by poor care who may also sue for damages, after campaigners condemned the practice as an illegal and unfair denial of patients' rights.
Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is moving to end the situation whereby some hospitals decide not to look into a complaint or to halt an investigation simply because the patient or relatives have also launched a lawsuit – or even just sought legal advice about doing so.
The Department of Health (DH) has agreed to issue new guidance to all NHS organisations in England telling them to look into all complaints, regardless of the possibility of being sued. It was forced to act after the patient safety charity Action against Medical Accidents threatened to seek a judicial review at the high court.
The charity sought legal advice after patients harmed by medical errors said they had been warned by hospitals that their complaint would be put on hold if they went to court or even considered doing so, despite the practice being outlawed by the DH in 2009. "They had insult added to injury by this denial of their rights," said Peter Walsh, the group's chief executive. Some hospital trust websites still state they will not investigate complaints in such circumstances, even though the NHS constitution says every complaint has to be looked into properly.
The charity's lawyers told Hunt it had identified "a significant and persistent problem in that NHS trusts are halting or abandoning investigations into complaints made under the complaints procedures once there has been any indication that legal action is being contemplated or will be taken at some future point". It blamed the DH's "muddled and counterproductive" advice to trusts on how to implement the 2009 regulations that supposedly ended the practice.
"Refusing to investigate complaints if people exercise their civil right to take legal action is deeply unfair and a disgraceful abuse of patients' rights, which is also totally at odds with government pronouncements about openness," said Walsh. "The practice of some NHS trusts has been totally unacceptable, seemingly designed to hide facts that may assist a claimant or deter claims, and totally contrary to stated policy, which requires hospitals to be open when someone has been harmed."
The fact that hospitals have been able to reject or ignore certain grievances has added to concerns about the NHS complaints system. Patients have described how the pain of experiencing poor care has been compounded by encountering a wall of silence when they complain, along with NHS staff closing ranks and a refusal to be honest about what went wrong.
The NHS ombudsman recently criticised the "toxic cocktail of reluctance by patients to complain and defensiveness by hospitals in handling complaints [which] means concerns and complaints are going unheard or unaddressed". A review of the system, ordered by David Cameron after the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal, is to report soon.
Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of National Voices, which represents dozens of health charities, welcomed the health department's agreement to revoke and replace the 2009 regulations. "Patients and families have a clear legal right to have all complaints investigated as confirmed in the NHS constitution. It is not acceptable for any organisation providing services to the NHS to breach this duty. The possibility of legal action does not provide a legitimate reason for trusts to fail to investigate", he said.
A DH spokesman said: "We expect the NHS to respond to all complaints raised." That should apply in all but "exceptional circumstances in which a complaint is put on hold because the trust and complainant have been discussing its timing and handling", he said. This is often linked to a legal claim.
Meanwhile, Hunt has been accused of backtracking on a key recommendation in the official report into Mid Staffs. Earl Howe, the health minister, confirmed in the Lords last week that the "duty of candour" on hospitals proposed by Robert Francis QC, obliging them to tell patients about mistakes, would only apply to cases resulting in death or serious injury. However, that will mean it will apply to fewer cases than envisaged by Francis, who said it should cover those where death or serious harm "may have", or were "believed" or "suspected" to have, resulted from a blunder. The definition outlined by Hunt is also at odds with a number of separate official policies which require the NHS to be honest about patient safety incidents resulting in anything constituting "moderate" harm or worse, such as the National Patient Safety Agency's "being open" guidance about what to do over errors.
"There is a grave danger that this [duty of candour] initiative, which has the potential to b the biggest advance in patient safety and patients' rights in history, will be watered down or limited to the extent that its effect will be minimal", said Walsh. Narrowing the definition of harm was "morally and ethically wrong", he added.
Taylor effectively accused the DH of hypocrisy over the issue.
"The DH likes to talk about 'putting patients first' but in practice seems happy to make far-reaching decisions affecting the quality and safety of patient care behind closed doors."
The DH said it was committed to introducing a duty of candour. It is due to respond in detail to Francis's 290 recommendations, designed to achieve "zero harm" in the NHS, in mid-November.Denis Campbell
I worked alongside Hugh Jackson when he was chairman of the Tyne and Wear Playing Fields Association. He provided the design/manufacturing industry with details and case studies concerning playground accidents and the behaviour of children, which contributed to the introduction of many of the safety features now seen in children's play areas. More important was his concern for children playing in dangerous areas because of the absence of attractive play provision in their neighbourhoods and he pressed for an increase in quality and quantity of play areas, in Tyne and Wear and nationally.
Hugh was an extremely warm and generous person, always prepared to support activities concerning child safety.
Dossier reveals officers who step in to transport the gravely ill sometimes face disciplinary action if patients subsequently die
The scandal of police cars being seconded to do the work of overstretched ambulance staff has been revealed in a leaked log of incidents compiled from around the country.
Officers have had to step in after being told on bank holidays of a seven-hour wait for ambulances, according to the document compiled by officers. Some officers forced to ferry critically ill people to hospital because of a lack of ambulances have faced internal inquiries or Independent Police Complaints Commission investigations after their passengers died, the document says.
The log notes a growing concern among officers that they were becoming responsible for the health of people who have attempted suicide, been badly hurt in road crashes or become ill on the street or in their homes.
One entry made by an officer in the north-east of England in April this year reports: "Good Friday weekend we were told [there] is a seven-hour waiting time for an ambulance so don't call one as you won't get one". Another entry from July this year from the same area says: "Ambulance control requested police attend a report of 14-year-old girl having taken an overdose (police requested 'because of her age and as she was home alone'). On police arrival an ambulance failed to attend and the response was downgraded as there was no ambulance available. The injured person had to be taken to hospital by police and the ambulance cancelled. The child was 14 years old and there was no requirement for police in this circumstance."
Another officer mentions an incident in the south-east: "Female was very ill and the first car on scene decided to take her to hospital. The control room said no. No ambulance was nearby. The officer took the female to hospital where she collapsed and died (they got her back). The inspector reported the officer in respect of misconduct for breaching a direct order."
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said a major cause of the shortage of ambulances was the fact that they have to wait at hospitals to release patients into A&E departments that are already full. Earlier this year it was reported that the number of patients forced to wait at least two hours parked outside A&E had risen by two-thirds in one year. Figures from eight of England's 10 ambulance trusts showed that 3,424 patients waited more than two hours before handover to hospital staff during 2012-13, against 2,061 such patients in the previous year.
Hospitals have been battling to deal efficiently with a huge influx of emergency patients, with senior doctors comparing A&E units to "war zones" and the head of the NHS watchdog saying the situation was "out of control".
The prime minister says the pressure is caused by an extra one million people visiting A&E compared with three years ago. However, Labour blames the scrapping of the NHS Direct advice line, nursing cuts and health service shakeup. Burnham said: "Jeremy Hunt has failed to grasp the urgency of the A&E crisis. The chaos is now spreading to other emergency services. The alarming fact that police cars are now doubling as makeshift ambulances is a clear sign of how bad things have got on his watch."
Steve White, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, warned against the police being asked to plug the gaps where the other emergency services were feeling the strain. He said: "Police officers are already stretched beyond the limit and cannot and should not be expected to plug the gaps those cuts have left across other areas of the public sector."Daniel Boffey
In a speech in China, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said society has collectively ignored what he calls the "national shame" of the "forgotten million" isolated older peopleMartin Rowson
Doctors say prime minister's pledge is unachievable, as analysis shows only 1% of surgeries open all weekend
Datablog: GP surgeries' opening hours
Senior doctors have condemned the prime minister's pledge that GP surgeries will open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week as unrealistic and unachievable, as a Guardian analysis of existing opening times showed that just 1% of practices see patients on both weekend days and three-quarters are shut all weekend.
Only 100 (1%) of the 9,871 surgeries in England listed on the NHS Choices website are currently open for part of Saturday and part of Sunday, while overall just one in seven – 1,439 (14.6%) – open at all on a Saturday.
Those that are open offer access to a GP for on average only three hours and 25 minutes, far less than during an 8am to 6.30pm standard weekday. Three out of four (7,561 – 75.6%) surgeries are shut all weekend.
Even at surgeries that do see patients at the weekend, opening hours can be brief. Although four practices in Sheffield, Coventry, Wirral and King's Lynn open for 14 hours on a Saturday, the Village Hall surgery in Nottingham is open for just 30 minutes that day. More than 30 others open for an hour or less.
The findings underline the scale of the task David Cameron faces in honouring his promise, which earned widespread media coverage when he announced it at the Tory conference. Millions who find it hard to see a GP at a suitable time would benefit from the dramatic extension of opening hours, he pledged: "We want to support GPs to modernise their services so they can see patients from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week."
But doctors' leaders claim there are far too few GPs to staff such an expansion of opening times and the NHS is too cash-strapped to afford it. They have also questioned whether enough patients will want to see a GP outside normal weekday surgery hours, especially at weekends, to justify the move.
Family doctors' organisations warn that a large majority of patients who visit surgeries during usual weekday opening hours could face longer waiting times and not be able to see their regular GP if ministers press ahead with the plan.
"I think the prime minister over-promised an undeliverable service. The announcement isn't realistic within the resources that we have in the health service," said Dr Peter Swinyard, national chair of the Family Doctor Association.
The numbers revealed by the Guardian's analysis "ring true", he said. "They underline the undeliverability of the promise. It's not realistic to talk about GP services opening from 8 until 8, seven days a week – that's the bottom line."
Accusing Cameron of using spin, Swinyard said the new policy was an "unlimited rice pudding announcement: 'you can have anything you want, chaps'." Even the £50m the prime minister announced to pay for nine pilots of the scheme was taken from elsewhere in the health budget and was not new money, he said.
Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), said the prime minister was right to focus on expanding access for patients. "But the shortage of GPs means you can't provide that sort of access and expect it to be your GP you see on a Friday morning, for example, as he may be having a rest day after working all of the day before. If you move towards these 16-hour days, it will be less likely that your GP will be available at a time you can make," she said.
The drive to extend opening times overlooked the fact that, outside usual surgery times, many GPs were also looking after patients at urgent care centres and walk-in clinics and through 111, NHS Direct and out-of-hours providers, she added.
"My profession wants to find a solution to improving healthcare for patients. But you do that not by beating us around the head constantly but by supporting and investing in us," Gerada said. The royal college says the NHS needs 10,000 more GPs to cope with rising demand caused by an ageing population and the increase in long-term medical conditions.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the GP committee at the British Medical Association, warned that weekday GP services would suffer if surgeries were routinely expected to open 8am to 8pm daily. "There could be a poorer service across the week if GPs are spread more thinly. It would just not be logistically possible to offer the same volume of care midweek if GPs and practice staff are spread more thinly over seven days," he said.
Mike Farrar, who recently stepped down as chief executive of the NHS Confederation, suggested that Cameron had erred in prioritising the needs of those who have trouble seeing their GP because they work long hours and may also commute.
"In an ideal world, all things are possible. But just at this present time, it's essential that the government is honest about the money available to the NHS and target the resources available to those with greatest need. That must mean that meeting the needs of frail, elderly people and young families should take preference over widening access for those with lesser needs during the weekends," he said.
Other senior GPs, such as Professor Steve Field, the new chief inspector of primary care, and Dr Michael Dixon, president of NHS Clinical Commissioners, have strongly backed longer opening.
Downing Street declined to comment on the doctors' concerns. But the Department of Health maintained that the extension was "entirely possible" and that plans to roll it out would continue, with some patients seeing longer hours from next April. "Millions of people find it hard to get an appointment to see their GP at a time that fits in with their work and family life and so it right that we look to change that. GPs do a fantastic job and we want to work with them to ensure services meet the needs of modern day life", a spokeswoman said.
The Guardian analysis is based on the opening hours of more than 9,000 GP surgeries from the NHS Choices website. In checking some of the surgeries advertised as having weekend opening hours, it emerged that some were in fact closed on Saturdays and Sundays. It is possible, therefore, that these numbers may overestimate the weekend availability of GPs.
Field, a former chair of the RCGP, plans to make access to GPs one of the key ways in which he assesses the quality and effectiveness of surgeries when he and his team inspect and later rate practices.
Ministers and NHS England do not expect every surgery to open from 8-8 throughout the week, especially as many have only one or two GPs. Groupings of local practices, perhaps operating a rota system, are likely to emerge, so that GPs can share providing the extra hours.
The health department said it was trying to tackle the shortage of GPs by encouraging more medical students to go into general practice rather than hospitals.Denis CampbellGeorge ArnettMona Chalabi
Our roundup of the best healthcare news, comment and analysis from around the web
Welcome to the weekly roundup from the Guardian Healthcare Professionals Network. Our daily blog was on hold this week, so here's a summary of what's been happening across the sector.
One of the week's big stories was that England's mental health services are "in crisis". The BBC reported that Dr Martin Baggaley, medical director of the South London and Maudsley NHS trust, spoke out as an investigation revealed spaces for more than 1,500 beds in mental healthcare have been withdrawn recent years.
Meanwhile, on the network, we ran a story that said mental health is maligned in the NHS with huge gaps in services. Dr Geraldine Strathdee, national clinical director for mental health for NHS England, told the network at the Foundation Trust Network conference that it is "hard to understand" why in one organisation one team can achieve "fantastic outcomes while the one next door can be really struggling". She also said that there is stigma surrounding mental health within the healthcare profession.
The Guardian reported that at least a third of trusts fill nurse shortfalls from abroad to keep their wards adequately staffed. And, Gillian Joseph, a Sky News presenter, wrote a blogpost asking: has immigration saved the health service?
Immigrant workers have been bolstering the NHS from its inception and seem set to continue to be its backbone … Today there are 85,000 immigrant nurses registered in the UK and recent General Medical Council figures suggest 37% of all NHS doctors qualified abroad.
If there is one institution where immigration has had a profound impact, it has to be the National Health Service.
With a worldwide shortage of health workers, its reliance on immigrants looks set to continue.
The BBC ran a story that said ministers have unveiled plans to target NHS care at weekends. Increasing evidence suggests hospital death rates are higher at the weekends than on weekdays. Alex Neil, Scotland's health secretary, said five health boards would pilot new approaches in a £4m trial.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph said that NHS leaders will ask the British Medical Association to agree to changes in doctors' contracts which would boost standards of care by increasing staffing levels over weekends. Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of the NHS, pledged to bring in "radical" reforms to address death rates which rise by 16% on Sundays.
The paper also quoted Dr Anne Rainsberry, regional director of NHS England, saying that health services must be reformed "radically" to avoid increasing the current strain on resources and creating a £4bn hole in NHS finances by 2020.
Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos Mori, wrote for the Guardian that our rose-tinted view of the NHS has to change. He writes that a new poll shows people are starting to recognise we have to limit NHS spending but our pride in the health service is a major hurdle to delivering a more efficient service.
The challenge remains the public's rose-tinted spectacles – in the post-Olympic glow, 45% said the NHS was the thing that made them most proud to be British, more than the royal family or the armed forces. If the NHS – not politicians, but leading clinicians – can engage with the public on specific service changes they can support, a transition to a more focused and efficient NHS may just be possible, without general tax rises.
But don't expect this to be easy – the NHS remains the closest thing the British have to a religion.
Denis Campbell, the Guardian's health correspondant, wrote that hospitals' daily spending on food is as little as £4.15 per patient. The lowest spender is Barnet and Chase Farm at £4.15 per patient per day, and the highest is King's College hospital at £15.69.
The number of complaints against doctors in the UK has doubled in the past five years, according to the BBC. Data from the General Medical Council showed there were more than 8,100 complaints in 2012, compared with just under 4,000 in 2007.
There was also news that the Competition Commission ruled that two NHS hospital trusts in Dorset will not merge. The BBC reported that the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch hospitals and Poole hospital trusts wanted to become one to save money.
In response, Beccy Ashton, a policy manger at the King's Fund, wrote about the lessons that can be learned.
Making sure that proposed mergers really are considered on a case-by-case basis and are dealt with proportionately will be critical. A heavy burden now rests on Monitor to take on the enhanced role it has been given both to protect patients from mergers that offer little prospect of benefit and to expedite those that do. The sector regulator will need to strengthen its own capabilities if it is to rise to this challenge and ensure that the interests of patients and concerns about quality and safety are at the forefront of its considerations.
The Telegraph reported that the north-south health gap is "set to widen". A new study revealed that middle-class enclaves will benefit from a rise in NHS spending but deprived areas will lose out under a proposed new formula for distributing health funds around the country.
The paper also revealed that the Liverpool care pathway is of little benefit to dying patients.
Here are our top stories from the network this week:
• Health tourism is not a significant burden on the NHS
• Long-term thinking is vital if NHS is to meet future challenges
• Does Mark Britnell have the solution to the NHS 'crisis'?
• What are the real challenges of NHS finances?
• Three ways to restore faith in technology among NHS staff
And here are some of the other healthcare stories from around the web this week:
Guardian: Don't blame obese patients for being overweight, doctors told
BBC: Belfast trust admits liability for two deaths
Telegraph: One in ten GP surgeries has serious issues
BBC: Poverty gap 'causing thousands of deaths', NHS Health Scotland warns
HSJ (subscription): Whistleblowers to be interviewed by CQC inspectors
HSJ (subscription): Mark Britnell rules himself out of NHS England chief race
GP Online: Telehealth 'does not curb GP workload'
GP Online: CQC plans Ofsted-style letters to patients on GP performance
Pulse: Public support 'duty of candour' for GPs, says CQC
We'll be back with our live blog next week.Sarah Johnson
West Middlesex University hospital NHS trust held their first open day to interact more with the local community, to promote healthy living and to showcase their work
Over 2,000 visitors attended the event which promoted healthy living and showcased the hospital's work
Last month West Middlesex University hospital NHS trust held its first public open day in an effort to engage more broadly with the local community.
As people usually visit hospital in times of crises, the open day provided us with an opportunity to meet the public when they're not unwell, to promote healthy living and to showcase our work.
The event was designed to relate to the whole community; spread over 60 stalls, there were a variety of activities including blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes testing; sexual health checks and advice as well as tips on hand hygiene and infection control. It was important that the day was both engaging and educational so various specialities such as stroke, haematology, physiotherapy, pharmacy, emergency medicine, maternity, and learning and development were spotlighted.
Over 2,000 visitors attended the open day which also marked the ten year anniversary since the new hospital building was officially opened by Gordon Brown, the former prime minister.
After six months of planning, there was a real sense of pride and team spirit on the day. Over 170 staff and volunteers gave up their spare time to organise fun and interactive activities that would appeal to children and adults. Staff said that they thoroughly enjoyed meeting local residents when answering questions about the hospital's services and health related issues.
The behind the scenes tours were also successful, especially those of an operating theatre, cardiology, endoscopy and clinical imaging because they helped to de-mystify some of the hospital procedures; reassuring people who may be apprehensive about coming in for operations and/or treatment.
From an engagement perspective, we were pleased that people from different ethnic minorities, where there is a particular shortage, were signing up to the organ donation register. In total, 51 people signed up at the event which can potentially help save the lives of 459 prospective patient recipients.
As well as delivering vital healthcare services to the community, West Middlesex also provides jobs for approximately 2,000 people. Local schools and colleges were invited to come to the open day to learn about the various career paths within healthcare; this proved a real success and the human resources team was busy offering advice to visitors of all ages.
Being a family friendly event, the paediatric department created a fun and interactive children's zone which included face painting, a magic show, and allergy testing and nutrition advice for parents. There were also live performances by learning disability charity Speak Out in Hounslow's The Voice of Us drama group about patient experience and a Filipino cultural show by performers who took part in the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics ceremonies. Mary Macleod, MP for Brentford and Isleworth, joined the celebrations as well as the mayor of Hounslow, leader of Hounslow council and the mayor of Richmond.
The aim of our open day was to be educational, engaging and to promote good health and the positive feedback would suggest that this was successfully achieved; the open day looks set to become part of hospital's annual calendar of events.
Monica Keats is communications officer for West Middlesex University hospital NHS trust
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