Watershed moment as review announced into 'stupid' King George Hospital A&E closure plan
PUBLISHED: 15:32 29 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:49 30 November 2017
Plans to close a Redbridge A&E, which would have seen Queen's Hospital require millions of pounds of upgrades, have been halted after health bosses ordered an immediate review of the decision.
Plans to turn King George Hospital’s A&E, in Barley Lane, Goodmayes, into an urgent care centre were pushed through in 2011, and in November last year the scheduled closure date was announced for 2019.
But last month, the East London Health and Care Partnership (ELHCP) revealed they had hired independent consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to investigate key parts of the proposal, including activity shifts, capacity and the financial impact.
Today (Wednesday), the ELHCP published the report’s findings, and declared a complete overhaul of its strategy for emergency care provision.
Jane Milligan, ELHCP executive lead, said the PWC report had correctly identified that “much has changed” since the closure plan was first drawn up.
She added: “Our east London population is growing and ageing, demand for NHS services continues to increase, and we face ever-increasing challenges as a healthcare system.
“We now need to consider more options for the way we deliver urgent and emergency care across our communities.
“This will allow us to look at how this care is provided locally, taking these challenges into account.
“It is important we consider how we deliver these services across both King George and Queen’s hospitals to enable us to deliver care in the best way for patients. Exploring more options will enable us to do this.”
Ms Milligan called on clinicians, patients and partners to come together to develop a new plan for emergency care across north east London.
She added that while this new plan was being consulted and drawn up, King George Hospital’s A&E would remain open.
Chief executive of the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospital Trust which runs both King George and Queen’s Hospitals, Matthew Hopkins, was also happy with the news.
He said: “I’m pleased we now have the opportunity to work with our clinicians, our wider staff groups, patients and partners to look at the best way of delivering urgent and emergency care to local people.”
Ilford South MP Mike Gapes said the report’s findings were “a step in the right direction”, and said the financial case put forward by the ELHCP had made the closure of King George’s A&E inviable.
He told the Recorder: “I’ve been fighting this stupid decision for 10 years and in my opinion this report is a face-saving exercise leading up to an inevitable climbdown.
“The bottom line is that the report identifies it would cost £125m to build additional wards at Newham and Queen’s Hospitals to cope with the people who would be displaced from King George.
“The local NHS does not have that sort of capital to invest.”
But the veteran MP warned residents to remain cautious.
He said: “What I want to see now is the small print for these proposals. If we still have our A&E what is it going to look like?
“We must ensure it will be able to meet the needs of residents.
“This is a step in the right direction, but we’re not there yet.”
Councillor Roger Ramsey, leader of Havering Council, has also repeatedly lobbied for the closure decision’s reversal.
He said: “I thoroughly support today’s announcement that the existing A&E at King George Hospital is to remain open whilst the service reviews the recommendations from a recent strategic review undertaken by PWC.
“I have continually lobbied against the original decision to replace the A&E department with an Urgent Care Centre (UCC). “Even just a few months ago, I wrote to Jeremy Hunt stressing that a new review of the now six-year-old plans to close King George’s A&E department was absolutely essential.
“This decision will support local residents across the borough who require emergency treatment.
“Since 2011, Havering has become one of the fastest growing and changing areas in London and Queen’s A&E alone simply can’t cope with the additional demand.
“This decision means residents will now have access to two A&E facilities during the review, and I will continue to lobby for the A&E at King George to remain open permanently.”