Ilford South MP Mike Gapes slams King George Hospital labour ward closure and predicts same fate for A&E

Mike Gapes

Mike Gapes - Credit: Archant

Ilford South MP Mike Gapes has slammed today’s decision to close the labour ward at King George Hospital and predicted the same fate for accident and emergency.

King George Hospital's labour unit has been under threat of closure for years

King George Hospital's labour unit has been under threat of closure for years - Credit: Archant

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

King George’s maternity department 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.

But after a glowing Care Quality Commision report at Queen’s Hospital and several “readiness” reports, the move has been given the green light.

The last public consultation on maternity changes took place in 2010, when Mr Gapes said people were “overwhelmingly against” changes.

He added: “They made the decision years ago and now they’ve got their own way and they are going to do the same with A&E.

“They aren’t interested in public consultation – it’s a sham.

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“They are interested in their own preordained decisions and it’s partly for financial reason but it also conveniently fits into their vision of the NHS moving towards specialist units and away from local hospitals.”

NELC has created specialised birth centres at Queen’s and surrounding hospitals and says stopping births at King George is safer “on the balance of risk” than continuing to run three units in the area.

But Mr Gapes said location is important for local families.

He added: “It makes sense for ambulances to divert to the most specialist unit but for maternity you need local hospitals because families need to visit.

“A lot of people in south Ilford don’t have a car, 40 per cent in some wards, and they have to use public transport.

“Services to my constituents have been reduced by this decision.

“I’m not questioning that they have good quality and modern facilities at Queen’s – I visited the new birth centre myself.

“But people living in Redbridge have had a maternity hospital since 1926 and now you can have pre-natal and post-natal care but not give birth.”

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

NELC chief executive Alwen Williams said: “We are making changes to maternity services so that all local women get the safe, high-quality service they deserve at all local hospitals.”