Protestors’ anger: Mothballed maternity unit could ease pressure at Queen’s

A new birthing centre which could take some of the strain off of Queen’s Hospital and was built nine months ago is not open yet.

Barking Hospital was given a �12m upgrade in March – but is yet to have opened all its facilities.

Meanwhile, the Rom Valley Way hospital - one of two maternity units covering Havering, Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge – has introduced caps on the numbers of babies than can be born in the facility.

Queen’s was criticised by inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in October for the maternity care it provides.

A protest was recently held outside the Barking facility, calling for services to open.

Protester and former chair of Friends of Barking Hospital, Connie Francis MBE, said it is vital services open as soon as possible.

“The area needs them desperately,” the 89-year-old said. “With the maternity services issues at Queen’s Hospital at the moment, the birthing centre, for example, would provide a fantastic alternative.

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“The building is sitting there ready to be occupied – I don’t understand why it isn’t.”

Barking and Dagenham Primary Care Trust first proposed the plans for the hospital. The organisation then became NHS Barking and Dagenham, which then changed to Outer North East London Community Services (ONEL).

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT) which runs Queen’s and King George’s Hospitals hasn’t been involved in the development of the site.

A spokesman for NHS ONEL said: “Last April saw the change of management in the local NHS from the old independent PCTs to the combined NHS ONEL team.

“In line with the government’s NHS reforms, decisions were now to be made increasingly by local GPs, so many local plans and decisions had to be reviewed afresh.

“The CQC’s investigation of local hospital maternity services last year also required NHS ONEL to review our plans for the whole of the outer north east London sector and Barking community hospital has been included in this review.

“However commitment to opening the remaining services at Barking Hospital was never in question and NHS ONEL acted quickly to progress this. We are however subject to legal timescales for procurement so must abide by these.”

As part of the NHS procurement process the hospital will be run by a health provider other than NHS ONEL - as they are the commissioners - who will responsible for opening the unit.