Redbridge’s A&E and labour unit axed – full reaction to the decision

Afters years of campaigning, petitions to the top of government and marches through the streets, the decision most were dreading was delivered today: King George Hospital’s accident and emergency unit and labour ward will close.

But with no timeline for closure, and a raft of improvements needed at the health trust, it could be years before the doors to the wards are closed for good.

The morning began with the publication of a damning Care Quality Commission (CQC) report into the care of patients by Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust.

It followed a fourth month investigation into care at both King George in Barley Lane, Goodmayes and Queen’s Hospital, Romford, and found patients “remain at risk of poor care”.

Cynthia Bower, chief executive of the CQC, said: “We have been forcing the trust to address issues on a short term basis – but we have real concerns about safety in the mid-to longer term.”

Some of the key findings of the report include problems identified in maternity services such as “poor clinical care, a service operating in isolation, verbally abusive and unprofessional behaviour by some staff to patients and to their colleagues and a lack of learning from maternal deaths and incidents.”

Seventy-three recommendations have been made by the CQC.

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At 1pm today, the independent reconfiguration panel (IRP), made up of people with expertise in healthcare, released its report into proposals to close the A&E and labour ward at King George.

It said: “Attempting to provide safe, high quality A&E and maternity services at all six hospitals in north east London is not sustainable and the development of a major acute hospital at Queen’s Hospital will bring real benefits to patients.”

It added: “The IRP recognises the genuine cause for concern about the safety and quality of existing maternity and A&E services, particularly at Queen’s Hospital.

“These concerns should be addressed as an urgent priority in order to provide a service which patients deserve and to create a platform on which to build future services.”

Giving the IRP report his backing, secretary of state for health Andrew Lansley said: “Both Queen’s Hospital and King George will have a great future ahead of it when the right measures have been put in place to make sure that patients are going to the right place for their care.”

Tonight, a joint statement was released from Ilford South MP Mike Gapes, Ilford North MP Lee Scott, Chingford and Woodford Green MP Iain Duncan Smith, Leyton and Wanstead MP John Cryer and the three party leaders on Redbridge Council.

It said it was “extremely concerned” at the findings of the CQC report.

Calling the decision of Mr Lansley “extremely disappointing” it added: “We believe this [CQC] report overwhelmingly underlines the case for retaining services at King George Hospital.”

The statement went on: “We intend to highlight the flaws in their [the IRP’s] argument and will continue our cross party opposition to these proposals and carry on fighting to protect services at King George Hospital which the residents of Redbridge are entitled to expect and receive.”

Vanda Thomas, joint chairman of Redbridge LINk, a network for people with an opinion on health and social care, said: “It will come as a huge disappointment to the community that the secretary of state has decided to go ahead with plans to close core services at King George Hospital.

“However we are pleased Mr Lansley has taken into account the overall state of hospital services in Outer North East London and recognises the folly of allowing a reconfiguration of this magnitude at this present time.”