King George Hospital to close cancer unit in November

King George Hospital in Goodmayes. Photo: Ken Mears

King George Hospital in Goodmayes. Photo: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

King George Hospital is closing its cancer unit.

Cedar Centre, the chemotherapy unit at the hospital in Barley Lane, Goodmayes, will shut on November 12.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust has also said it is not opening an ambulatory ward, despite pleas.

Cancer patients will have to travel to Queen’s Hospital in Rom Valley Way, Romford instead.

Chris Bown, interim chief executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospital Trust, confirmed the news in an e-mail.

He said: “I can confirm we have had four resignations, alongside two members of staff on maternity leave.

“Chemotherapy nurses are highly specialised and nationally are a particularly hard to recruit staff group, so this is a big concern for us.

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“Having reviewed the options, we have concluded that there is no solution available that will allow both the safe delivery of chemotherapy treatment at King George and that is acceptable from a patient experience perspective.

“We have therefore made the decision based on clinical safety grounds that we will centralise chemotherapy services at Queen’s Hospital from 12 November onwards, and no longer deliver treatment at King George.”

Mr Bown confirmed the Cedar Centre will be developed into a ‘Living with and Beyond Cancer’ hub, offering health and wellbeing support to patients.

He added: “For some time we have been considering our best options for delivering chemotherapy.

“We’re exceptionally proud of the improvements we’ve delivered in cancer care in the past 18 months.

“We’ve hit the national performance for more than a year, and we have made massive investments in cutting edge treatment, all of which means we are offering better care for local people than ever before. But we don’t want to rest on our laurels.

“We’re constantly looking to improve our treatment, and crucially, the vital support that patients and their families need during these very difficult times, and the Cedar Centre at King George will continue to play a central role in that support through the new health and wellbeing hub.”

In another statement, a spokesman for the trust confirmed it will not be opening an ambulatory unit at the site, a ward designed to treat emergency patients on the same day, separate from the A&E department.

They said: “Due to the low levels of admitted adult patients from the Emergency Department at King George Hospital, a full ambulatory care unit is not required and we do not believe it would be the best use of our resources.

“It is more effective to centralise this service at Queen’s Hospital.

“Any increase in admissions or ambulatory support is monitored daily.

“However, due to the levels of demand from our frail elderly patients, we do offer a dedicated ambulatory care service for these patients at King George Hospital.”

Andy Walker, who has campaigned against the closure of King George Hospital since 2010, was shocked by the news.

He said: “It is unbelievable stuff. Staff do not want to work at King George, we must be able to redirect people to work at King George.

“It is very worrying, Queen’s is already in a state and they just will not be able to cope.

“This is completely unacceptable, the government has to get a grip on the situation and the secretary of state needs to issue a statement.

“We cannot afford to have any unplanned closures at King George going into winter.”

MPs have also reacted to the news.

Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North said: “It is a worrying sign of the staffing crisis in the NHS that the local trust says it cannot safely operate the chemotherapy unit open at King George Hospital.

“This will mean longer travel times for vulnerable patients and concerns about stretched capacity. The Government must urgently get a grip on the staffing crisis in the NHS that has led to the shortage of key staff like chemotherapy nurses.”

Mike Gapes, MP for Ilford South said: “This is appalling news. It raises big concerns about the attitude of the new leadership of BHR Hospitals to the overall future of services at King George Hospital.”

Before the news broke, Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal said he was writing a letter to Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock.

He says he is calling for help in protecting the services.

Cllr Athwal said: “I am seeking Mr Hancock’s intervention and an assurance that all closure plans for the vital and much needed A&E service at King George are completely taken off the table.”

A public meeting will be held on November 25 at the town hall, at 3pm, to demand a review of the closure.