Havering councillors in heavyweight protest over planned A&E closure

HAVERING and Redbridge health councillors have joined a choir of voices protesting against the proposed closure of an A&E department.

Members of the Outer North East London (Outer NEL) Joint Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee – charged with examining decisions affecting health in the region – are railing against proposals by planners Health for North East London (H4NEL) to replace the A&E unit at King George Hospital in Goodmayes with an urgent care centre.

Seriously ill patients from Ilford will instead be treated at an expanded emergency department at Queen’s Hospital in Rom Valley Way, Romford, or at Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone.

But councillors, who were also backed by Ilford South MP Mike Gapes, claim the Romford hospital will be overwhelmed by the extra patients.

In a strongly-worded letter to decision makers, the 28 complained: “The committee feels we would have a situation where the three A&Es in the Inner NEL sector – namely the Royal London, Homerton and Newham – would serve about 200,000-250,000 people, while in the Outer NEL sector we would have A&Es at Whipps Cross serving 300,000 people and Queen’s serving 700,000.

“This would create a serious imbalance, particularly at Queen’s, that would be detrimental to healthcare in the Outer NEL area.”

Havering Cllr Lynden Thorpe, chairman of the committee, added: “It is the committee’s view that the hospital and its A&E department in particular is struggling to cope with current levels of demand and will therefore be unable to cope with the additional workload required under the H4NEL plans.”

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But H4NEL has rebuffed misgivings, claiming plumped-up doctors’ surgeries, known as polyclinics, and walk-in centres would treat minor injuries and ailments, reducing A&E admissions.

Cllr Keith Darvill, leader of the Havering Labour group, said: “While other services such as polyclinics are welcome, they do not have the impact that some of those planning A&E cover believe. The large population in Havering, Redbridge and Barking & Dagenham require improved accident and emergency cover, not less.”

More than 3,000 residents and organisations have already been consulted – including several hundred people from Havering when roadshows came to the borough in January and February – with the majority of those who expressed an opinion slamming proposals to close the A&E.

Councillors also cast doubt on claims by H4NEL that the plans have broad clinical backing, claiming planners had not provided evidence of support.

Helen Brown, H4NEL London programme director, said; “Local doctors want to ensure everyone in north east London has access to high quality care and have developed revised proposals based on all the valuable input from royal colleges, overview and scrutiny committees, patients and the public. We have discussed the proposals with around 400 GPs in recent months and we believe our proposals to reorganise services would substantially improve health services in the area.

However, we recognise some people have raised concerns and the joint committees of PCTs will meet in public on 15 December to consider all of this feedback before making any decisions. To attend the meeting please contact healthfornel@elca.nhs.uk or call 0207 092 5233.”

Other proposed changes are in maternity, critical care and some specialist surgeries.

A final decision is due next Wednesday (December 15).

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