King George Hospital A&E downgrade plans to be worked out ‘in next six to nine months’

Matthew Hopkins, Chief Executive of Queen’s and King George hospitals

Matthew Hopkins, Chief Executive of Queens and King George hospitals - Credit: Archant

The chief executive of the trust which runs King George Hospital has said initial planning for the downgrading of the A&E department will start in the next “six to nine months”.

Matthew Hopkins, of BHRUT [Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospital Trust], who started in the role just over a year ago and celebrates his 30th anniversary of joining the NHS as a student nurse this week, said a lot was being done to improve staff morale.

“My staff know that I’ve held the hand of a dying patient in the middle of the night, or worked night shifts, and worked weekends,” he said.

“When we have a conversation about improving patient care they know that I know what that looks like.

“The demands on NHS staff are greater than they have ever been.”

As for the future of King George Hospital’s A&E department – cited by newly-elected Ilford North MP Wes Streeting as his priority – Mr Hopkins said the decision to downgrade it to a 24-hour urgent care centre had already been made.

The controversial proposal was made in 2010 by the primary care trust.

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He said: “What we will be working on first is making sure the patients coming into both EDs [emergency departments] are getting good care in a timely fashion.”

He said the change would mostly affect patients coming in by ambulance, with walking wounded continuing to get treatment at the Barley Lane hospital in Goodmayes.

Mr Hopkins said the next step was looking at things such as how big the department at Queen’s needed to be and whether there needed to be more beds.

“We will work that out over the course of the next six to nine months,” he said. “Then we will start sharing those plans with people.

“It’s not imminent because we need to do the background work on what it needs to look like.”

And he moved to dispel fears the downgrading could lead to King George being closed entirely.

“We have the life study centre, Health 1000, the breast treatment unit – it’s going to be a really important hospital for us.”

Read the full interview in Thursday’s Recorder.