Long history of Hornchurch landmark, St George’s Hospital, could be almost over
15:00 01 November 2012
An important historical landmark which is held in great affection,” was how one former NHS chief described it, but a Legionella scare may well have finally ended the debate surrounding St George’s Hospital.
The Hornchurch facility was opened in 1938 as an old people’s home, called Suttons Institution, but soon played a key role in the Battle of Britain – housing RAF airmen during the Second World War.
In 1948 the Sutton’s Lane building was renamed St George’s and turned into a hospital.
The future of the site has been a live issue since at least 2005, when a consultation was launched on whether to refurbish, redevelop or close the hospital.
The number of patients being admitted fell that year and bosses considered closing one of the hospital’s four wards.
A campaign, led by the then Hornchurch MP James Brokenshire, was organised to halt the closure of St George’s. The consultation was put on hold while the government altered health policy.
In 2007, the then head of nursing at the hospital, Lynne Swiatczak, said that the facilities were “not suitable for the care of adults” – and Havering Primary Care Trust clarified that only a rebuild would ensure that the facilities would remain up to the standard that patients expect.
But the Recorder recently learnt that only two full building inspections have been carried out at the site in the last 10 years – in 2001 and 2008.
In 2009, health chiefs paid about £100,000 for plans for a new high-tech building on the same site and another consultation was launched.
Chas Hollwey, then chief executive of NHS Havering, said: “The old hospital is an important historical landmark which is held in great affection,” while adding that the building could not remain in its current state.
The £100,000 plans were not acted on and NHS Havering was subsequently abolished and the consultation shelved.
Inpatients from St George’s two wards were due to be moved out of the hospital in mid-November, with outpatient services remaining.
However, the discovery of Legionella bacteria has now left the hospital lying empty – at least for now.
The future of the site has still not been officially settled.
Health bosses say they have not decided whether outpatients will be moved back into the facility, and will launch a consultation on the future of the site.
But others believe that St George’s fate has all but been decided.
A leaflet put out by Hacton Conservative Party recently said the hospital would be closed and the bulk of its site sold off for housing – with some sort of new health centre also being built on Suttons Lane.