Plans for shake up of A&E departments to be worked out in next ‘six to nine months’

Matthew Hopkins, Chief Executive of Queen’s and King George hospitals

Matthew Hopkins, Chief Executive of Queens and King George hospitals - Credit: Archant

The chief executive of the trust which runs Queen’s Hospital has said initial planning for how it will take the strain as King George’s A&E department is downgraded will start in the next “six to nine months”.

In an exclusive interview with the Recorder. Matthew Hopkins, from BHRUT’s [Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospital Trust], spoke out over the trust’s financial situation, the recent CQC (Care Quality Commission) inspection and stressed the trust’s commitment to being “open and honest” about the challenges facing it.

Mr Hopkins, who started in the role just over a year ago and celebrates his 30th anniversary of joining the NHS as a student nurse this week, said a lot of work was being done to improve staff morale.

“My staff know that I’ve held the hand of a dying patient in the middle of the night, or worked night shifts, and worked weekends,” he said.

“When we have a conversation about improving patient care they know that I know what that looks like.

“The demands on NHS staff are greater than they have ever been.

“People are working harder than they might have done but actually if we can focus on rewarding and interesting I think that makes a big difference.”

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As for the future of King George Hospital’s A&E department, in Goodmayes, Mr Hopkins said the trust was pushing ahead with plans to downgrade it.

“The decision to downgrade the A&E department to a 24-hour urgent care centre has already been made,” he said.

“What we will be working first is making sure the patients coming in to both EDs [emergency departments] are getting good care in a timely fashion.”

He said the change would mostly affect patients coming in by ambulance, with walking wounded continuing to get treatment at the new urgent care centre at the Barley Lane hospital.

Now, Mr Hopkins said, the trust itself would be looking at things such as how big the department at Queen’s, in Rom Valley Way, Romford, needed to be and whether there needed to be more beds.

“We will work that out over the course of the next six to nine months,” he said. “Then we will start sharing those plans with people.

“It’s not imminent because we need to do the background work on what it needs to look like.”

And he moved to dispel fears the downgrading could lead to King George Hospital being closed entirely.

“It’s a local hospital – we have the life study centre, Health 1000, the breast treatment unit – it’s going to be a really important hospital for us.”

Read the full interview in Friday’s Recorder.