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King George Hospital in Ilford will resume treating children’s emergencies overnight next week after stopping the service for eight months.
The hospital struggled with staff shortages and the impact of COVID but has been “successfully recruiting” and will fully reopen its children’s emergency department on June 7.
Overnight treatment was put on hold on November 4 last year, which Redbridge councillors criticised as a “knee jerk” decision not made by other hospitals in London.
Children needing urgent care between 9pm and 9am were seen by Queen’s Hospital in Romford, also run by Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT).
On its website, the trust wrote: “As we look ahead to brighter days in our recovery from COVID-19, we are also enhancing the children’s care we offer by opening a Children and Young People’s Assessment Unit (CYPAU) at Queen’s Hospital on June 7.
“The CYPAU is a purpose-built space to assess children and is designed to stop them from being admitted unless absolutely necessary. Instead, young people can be assessed and treated at the CYPAU before returning home.
“This unit brings us in line with national standards and will increase our capacity to deliver a more sustainable children’s service, while improving patient and staff experience.”
On November 5, the day after the closure was announced, Redbridge Council’s health scrutiny committee questioned why other hospitals had been able to keep their services open.
At the time, committee chair Cllr Neil Zammett (Lab, Goodmayes) said: “We need to make sure we are not closing our services in Redbridge when other places are managing to keep them open.
“The pressure is on to retreat to (Queen’s Hospital in Romford) but I think it’s clear to everyone that Queen’s could not manage the acute sector and all those services on its own.”
Cllr Jyotsna Islam (Lab, Aldborough) added: “It appears to be a norm that our health partners are closing sections of the hospital without giving us enough notice or prior discussion.”
The trust’s chief medical officer Dr Magda Smith explained they had suffered with staff shortages even before COVID, which then forced a quarter of their consultant paediatricians to shield.
She said: “We are dependent on temporary doctors to support our service and that adds a fragility to the process.”
Dr Morgan Keane, consultant pediatrician for Queen’s Hospital, added that the trust recruits many doctors from overseas and that COVID had made it more difficult to secure their visas.
Cllr Zammett said this suggested the NHS in Barking, Havering and Redbridge was “slow off the mark” in responding to the staffing problem.