‘I’m not convinced... I’m worried’ – councillor on plan to end births in Redbridge
“I’m not convinced, I’m not reassured – I’m worried,” is how one person labelled plans to end births in Redbridge and send pregnant women to hospitals across north-east London, as figures mapping out the rising birth rate in the borough were revealed.
Members of Redbridge Council’s health scrutiny committee gathered for an extraordinary meeting last night and quizzed health chiefs on their plans to radically shake-up maternity provision in the area.
As the Recorder has already revealed, King George Hospital’s labour unit in Barley Lane, Goodmayes, will close in around April 2013, and women will be sent to either Queen’s Hospital, Romford or Whipps Cross Hospital, Leytonstone.
But there were barbed exchanges between councillors and senior bosses from the hospital trust when they were shown projections of the rising birth rate in Redbridge.
Estimates are that within the next five years, there will be around 500 more births a year – a rise of between 11 and 13 per cent – meaning there will be in the region of 4,700 total births.
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Labour Cllr Stuart Bellwood said it was the first time he had seen the figures, and hit out at chiefs from NHS North East London and the City (NELC) for not providing members with “demand and supply figures”.
He, and other councillors at the meeting in Redbridge Town Hall, High Road, Ilford, argued the figures would give them a clearer idea of the viability of the maternity plans, with information on how many births there are in each borough, and what the capacity of each maternity unit is.
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Cllr Bellwood said: “I would like to see a much better maternity plan presented and spelt out. I’m very frustrated and I’d like to see some constructive way forward.
“I’m not convinced, I’m not reassured, I’m worried.”
In response, Heather Mullin, programme director for NELC, said: “Clearly we’re not communicating the detail in a way that’s giving the committee the assurances needed and we need to find a way to do that.” She said she believed health chiefs had allowed for rising birth rates when deciding where expectant mothers will give birth in the future.