Jeremy Hunt says Wanstead Hospital closure should go ahead after Redbridge Council referral

Wanstead Hospital's Heronwood and Galleon wards have closed

Wanstead Hospital's Heronwood and Galleon wards have closed - Credit: Photo: Arnaud Stephenson

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said the closure of Wanstead Hospital and centralisation of intermediate care services should “go ahead as planned”.

Redbridge Council’s health scrutiny committee referred the proposals – agreed by Barking, Havering and Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Groups over a year ago – to the secretary of state in November, who passed it on to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) to assess.

But in a letter to Redbridge Council sent on Tuesday, Mr Hunt said he was “content with the panel’s conclusion that the CCGS’ model for intermediate care services represents the right direction of travel”.

Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge CCGs decided intermediate care beds across the three boroughs would be cut from 104 to 40 – with an extra 21 available if needed – and centralised at King George Hospital, Barley Lane, Goodmayes.

The beds – which provide rehabilitation for patients after operations and illness – will be replaced by the community treatment teams (CTTs), who are already in place and see people in their own homes.

But after huge opposition from residents – including a petition – the council referred the decision “on the grounds of inadequate consultation and not being in the long-term interests of patients”.

A statement published by the IRP said it “does not consider that a full review would add any value” and said further action by the NHS and councillors could address issues raised.

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The response said home-based services – permanently put in place in April following a pilot – had been “very successful”, with a significant increase in patients cared for and high levels of patient satisfaction.

“Formal consultation is only one stage in a continuous process of public engagement and involvement and, overall, the panel considers that the CCGs have taken adequate steps to fulfil their duties.”

The statement said more than 20,000 patients had been cared for under the new model, compared to only 1,300 a year previously.

It also said 90 per cent of patients said they would recommend the service, with waiting time for beds, the lenght of stay and readmission rates having all reduced.

“There is unease that a maximum of 61 community beds will be sufficient to meet demand, both at times of peak need and in light of changing demographics that may occur in years to come,” said the IRP.

“The CCGs should be able to demonstrate that their bed modelling is robust and confirm contingency plans for handling any short-term peaks in demand for beds, including how and where extra beds will be provided if required.”

It said any change in demand should be picked up through ongoing monitoring, but plans should go ahead.

A spokeswoman for Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “We will continue to move ahead with our plans, delivering improved care for tens of thousands of patients across the three boroughs and having a rehab bed for any patient who needs one.

“Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge intermediate care services have now cared for more than 20,000 patients, while the community rehabilitation beds are being used as we had anticipated. This demonstrates the model behind our plan is continuing to work as we had expected.

“Heronwood and Galleon unit in Wanstead is now closed and work began this week to refurbish Jasmine ward at King George Hospital so it can accept intermediate care patients in the spring.”