Decision was not if to close King George Hospital labour ward but ‘if it was safe’, board says

Save King George Hospital campaigners, residents and councillors outside the hospital during a protest against the closure...

Save King George Hospital campaigners, residents and councillors outside the hospital during a protest against the closure plans - Credit: Archant

Today’s final decision to close the labour ward at King George Hospital was not about “if” it would happen, but if it was safe, a meeting heard.

Executives of NHS North East London and the City (NELC) made voted unanimously to stop deliveries at the hospital in Barley Lane, Goodmayes, at a meeting this afternoon.

It has been under threat for years but the axe paused in 2011 when then health secretary Andrew Lansley said it could not be closed until the “right measures” were put in place.

Board members today decided that Queen’s Hospital, in Romford, and surrounding facilities in Waltham Forest, Newham and Barking were ready for the transfer.

Speaking at the meeting at Becketts House, Ilford Hill, Redbridge clinical director Dr Sarah Hayes said that capacity and quality concerns had been addressed at Queen’s Hospital.

She revealed that births at King George Hospital had been reduced accordingly from 150 in October to just 48 in February.

Helen Brown, director of transitional change, said the decision to close the labour unit was approved “in principle in 2010” and steadily implemented.

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She added: “The decision we are having to make is not about whether to make changes but about the safety of making them.”

One board member pointed out that NELC’s own report mentioned “operational risks” in the transfer, which included women turning up unannounced in labour at King George.

But Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust director of midwifery Wendy Matthews said risks had been “ironed out” and that accident and emergency were trained to handle unexpected births.

Midwives have also been trained to work in a number of maternity wards so they can move according to demand.

The closure means women will give birth at surrounding hospitals, leaving antenatal clinics, scans and parenting education at King George.

Only one Save King George Hospital campaigner, Susan Francis, attended the meeting itself, along with Cllr Harold Moth.

Several campaigners gathered outside Beckett House before the start of the meeting but left.

They were told placards were not allowed inside the boardroom.

Campigner Neil Zammett said: “I don’t think us being here will make a difference.

“They will just agree it and carry on.”