Parliamentary debate sees MPs insist Queen’s Hospital must expand before Redbridge A&E closure

Queen’s Hospital A&E.

Queens Hospital A&E. - Credit: Archant

The need to expand Queen’s Hospital’s emergency department before the closure of an A&E in Redbridge was once again highlighted during a parliamentary debate this week.

Ilford South MP Mike Gapes secured Monday’s end of day adjournment debate in the House of Commons with health minister Philip Dunne, on the future of the A&E department at King George Hospital, Redbridge.

Healthcare professionals across north east London insist the emergency department at Queen’s Hospital, in Rom Valley Way, Romford, will be expanded to deal with increased ambulance arrivals before any such closure goes ahead.

The debate saw Mr Gapes take the minister to task over the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), signed off in 2011 by then health secretary Andrew Lansley, which outlined plans to replace Redbridge’s A&E with an urgent care unit and send more accident and emergency cases to Havering.

Numerous issues, such as a £586million healthcare funding deficit in north east London and a predicted 18 per cent population increase over the next 15 years were also raised.

During the general election campaign earlier this year, health secretary Jeremy Hunt had promised King George’s A&E will not close “for the forseeable future”.

Mr Gapes, who has fought plans to close the Goodmayes A&E ever since they were first suggested in 2006, said: “I do not know how big the crystal ball is. I do not know what kind of telescope the secretary of state has and which end he is looking through.

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“The fact is that ‘foreseeable’ does not necessarily mean that the A&E will not close in 2019. If it is not going to close in the near future or even in the medium term, why not lift the cloud of uncertainty over the staff and over the planning process?”

The MP also insisted there would need to be huge capital investment at Queen’s hospital in order to increase bed capacity there before any transition could go ahead.

King George Hospital’s maternity services were moved to Romford in 2013, and have since improved according to the latest Care Quality Commission inspection.

“Such investment would take time and resources,” Mr Gapes insisted.

“At a time when NHS budgets are seriously pressed, and we still have that huge deficit in our regional health economy.

“Why not take that issue off the agenda?”

In May, a spokeswoman from Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), which runs the hospital, confirmed plans to downgrade the unit were still going ahead.

But throughout the 30-minute debate – which began at 9.56pm – Mr Dunne would not be forced into “second guessing the conclusions of the STP”.

The minister congratulated BHRUT on getting out of special measures in March, but told Mr Gapes the STP system had been introduced “to encourage a more holistic approach”.

Mr Dunne added: “We are absolutely clear that any significant service change that arises out of the implementation of STPs, if they get to that stage, must be subject to full public consultation.

“Proposals must meet the government’s four reconfiguration tests, which are support from clinical commissioners, clarity on the clinical evidence base, robust patient and public engagement, and support for patient choice.”

Ilford North MP Wes Streeting also attended, and told the health minister of the frustrations in Redbridge that healthcare groups are working towards a plan agreed more than five years ago.

Mr Streeting, who chairs a cross-party committee looking into alternative healthcare options in north east London, said: “I hope that the minister might be able to reverse that ministerial decision and remove the sword of Damocles from our A&E department.”

When asked by Mr Streeting whether those in charge of the STP process would be forced to abide by the 2011 decision, Mr Dunne appeared to indicate that was not the case.

He said: “The process should be informed by the decisions taken in 2010, but it will be up to today’s STP leadership to decide what to do.”