Watershed moment as review announced into ‘stupid’ King George Hospital A&E closure plan
PUBLISHED: 15:32 29 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:44 30 November 2017
King George Hospital’s emergency department is no longer under threat of imminent closure after health bosses ordered an immediate review of the original decision.
Plans to turn the borough’s only 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.
Wes Streeting, Ilford North MP, described the news as a “watershed moment” in the fight to save the A&E and called on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to reverse the 2011 ministerial decision to approve the closure.
He said: “It vindicates what we have been saying for years: that closing the A&E is not in the best interests of our growing and ageing population and the Tory closure plan agreed in 2011 can’t be delivered.”
The fight to save King George A&E has had cross-party support for many years, and Redbridge Conservative group leader Councillor Paul Canal described himself as “delighted” at the news the closure threat appears to have been lifted.
He said: “I have been lobbying the Department of Health and Number 10 extensively over the last three years to secure this outcome.
“All involved in the campaign should share credit, including the indefatigable local healthcare campaigner Andy Walker.”
“This report, suppressed in my view for too long, finally lifts that threat and restores the status quo - King George A&E remains open 24 hours a day.”
Cllr Canal also called for the new consultation on emergency healthcare provision to “happen in an open and transparent way”.
Chief executive of the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospital Trust which runs King George Hospital, 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 Redbridge residents.
“This is a step in the right direction, but we’re not there yet.”