Abandon plans to close King George A&E following CQC report, says councillor

Plans to close the A&E and maternity departments at King George Hospital should be abandoned following a report into the borough’s hospital trust, according to a local councillor.

Cllr Andy Walker, a member of the Save King George Hospital campaign, was reacting to the publication of a Care Quality Commission report this morning.

The CQC’s findings came off the back of an investigation into the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT).

It found improvements have been made since a previous investigation last year, particularly in maternity and radiology services, but emergency care remained a “serious concern”.

Cllr Walker emailed fellow councillors this morning calling on them to raise questions about King George Hospital in Barley Lane, Goodmayes, at the next council meeting.

He said: “NHS management should respond to this report by abandoning [King George’s] A&E and maternity closure plans, but I am not sure they will do this, so the campaign needs to keep going.”

“Is any wonder BHRUT is struggling to recruit permanent staff when it is on the record as saying that 1 in 4 are to be sacked by 2014?”

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Under current plans, King George will lose its A&E and maternity wards, which will be incorporated into Queen’s once the trust has passed more than 70 key tests from the CQC.

The campaign is organising a meeting at Ilford Central Library at 8pm on July 20.

Local MPs Lee Scott and Mike Gapes and voluntary network RedbridgeLINK also gave their reaction to the CQC report today as it was reported the trust is one of 21 nationwide being monitored because of financial difficulties.

Mr Gapes, the MP for Ilford South, said his initial impression of the report was that it was “very critical and damning”.

He said: “The CQC has done a very thorough job in my opinion in exposing some very serious shortcomings. “Although the new chief executive has made some improvements, there’s a long way to go.”

Mr Scott, the MP for Ilford North, said he wasn’t “surprised” by the report’s verdict on the trust’s emergency care.

He said: “I have constituents coming to me and I know what’s going on.

“The CQC report shows that Queen’s can’t cope.”

Cathy Turland, the manager of voluntary network RedbridgeLINK, said: “To ensure successes are sustainable going forward and that the trust continues to make all necessary improvements suggested by the CQC, we need to understand how staffing issues will be tackled across the trust and how it is responding with the level of complaints.”

Averil Dongworth, the trust’s chief executive, agreed yesterday that further improvements were required and said a “huge piece of work” is underway to improve emergency services at Queen’s.

The hospital trust is one of 21 NHS trusts nationwide which the government is monitoring because of financial difficulties.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The 21 trusts all have agreements in place with the Department of Health to return them to clinical and financial sustainability.

“This government is determined to do everything it can to turn these trusts around.”

After the South London Healthcare trust was placed into “special measures”, known as the unsustainable provider regime, this week, the spokesman wouldn’t confirm reports BHRUT is the next most likely trust to receive this action.

He said: “The unsustainable provider regime is designed to be used for NHS trusts only when all other options have been exhausted but it can and will be applied where necessary.”

The trust has annual payments of nearly �50m on its private finance initiative agreed in 2004.

Ms Dongworth said: “We do not underestimate the scale of our financial challenge, and we are already working with partners to develop the trust’s long term clinical and financial strategy.”

For more details of the CQC report, see tomorrow’s Recorder.