Hundreds join march in Ilford to save King George A&E

Protestors hold signs at a march to save King George Hospital's A&E, on 18th March 2017. Picture: Ca

Protestors hold signs at a march to save King George Hospital's A&E, on 18th March 2017. Picture: Catherine Davison - Credit: Archant

More than a thousand campaigners young and old marched to Redbridge Town Hall on Saturday to show their support for King George Hospital’s A&E.

Residents, councillors and MPs from parties across the political spectrum united to oppose the closure of the borough’s only emergency unit at the hospital in Barley Lane, Goodmayes. It’s due to be changed to an urgent care centre in 2019.

Protestors met at Valentines Park, before marching down Balfour Road and into Ilford town centre via Cranbrook Road.

The line of banners and placards trailed down the streets for as far as the eye could see, and some Saturday shoppers joined the protest.

Kim Jenkins, 52, from Seven Kings, told the Recorder she thought Queen’s Hospital, in Romford, which would be the main A&E for Redbridge if King George’s closes, was too far away.

“It’s too big an area to cover if you do have to go. Particularly as people get older they use it more,” she said.

The distance to Queen’s – five-and-a-half miles from Ilford – was a commonly cited reason by marchers.

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“It worries me,” explained Gopal Singh, 55, of Ilford.

“I’ve been to King George A&E, I don’t know why they’re shutting it.”

Alan Farthing, of Chadwell Heath, said: “We’re talking about lives, how can you put a price on that.”

“I’ve used it 20 or 30 times over the years, it’s just down the road. I know they have to cut costs, but eventually it goes too far.”

At Redbridge Town Hall, in High Road, Ilford, there was a lively meeting, with contributions from MPs, councillors, faith leaders and members of the public.

Ilford North MP Wes Streeting issued a rallying cry urging people to stay active in the campaign.

“If you asked me two or three months ago whether King George’s A&E could be saved, I would’ve said no it’s gone. But now I firmly believe it can be.

“There’s a reason the A&E hasn’t gone and that’s because it simply wouldn’t be safe.

“Thanks for coming on the march, you’ve made a difference just by being here, but unless all of us are prepared to play our part we will lose it. If you value it, you’ve got to fight for it.”

Mr Streeting called for the audience to sign the petition, and get their neighbours to do the same.

Redbridge Tory group leader Cllr Paul Canal shared the story of his friend Rita Beresford who “if King George A&E wasn’t here neither would she”.

Three weeks ago Rita had a heart attack at her home in Wanstead, and should have been taken to Whipps Cross, in Leytonstone, Cllr Canal told the crowd.

“But the ambulance drivers knew there was a two hour wait at Whipps Cross, so instead took her to King George,” he explained.

“There she was stabilised before being taken to the Royal London for a heart bypass.

“She heard about the march and couldn’t be here, but rang me up and asked me to share her story,” Cllr Canal said.

Havering and Redbridge Assembly Member Keith Prince told the crowd he would try and arrange a meeting between Jeremy Hunt, and organiser Andy Walker.

Mr Walker called on the health secretary to meet with local politicians, otherwise “the campaign will have to continue”.

A Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) spokeswoman said of the march: “The decision to make changes to A&E services locally has already been made and endorsed by the secretary of state for health. As we’ve always said, before we can make any of those planned changes we have to show that it’s safe to do so.

“When, and if, we can do that, the hospital’s Trust board and CCGs’ governing bodies meetings – both held in public – would then make a final decision to implement the changes.”

She added that the sign off had not taken place yet.