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The trust that manages King George Hospital in Ilford has declined to confirm whether the hospital’s children’s ward will ever reopen.
Councillors at Redbridge Council’s health scrutiny committee meeting last night asked why the council had learned of the closure in May from local media rather than from Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust.
Asked for “firm assurance” the hospital will return to “the full level of pediatric care”, the managing director of Redbridge’s clinical commissioning group said she “(did) not think (they) can say anything is permanent at the moment”.
Committee vice-chair Cllr Beverley Brewer (Lab, South Woodford) said: “We have a young population, we are a growing borough and Queen’s (Hospital) is a long way away.
“I personally know, having had four children myself who have not had good health, what it is like to have an acutely ill child and you have to get to hospital very quickly.
“I’m very concerned about what has been taken away from our residents, I want our residents to have their inpatient ward returned as soon as possible.”
Children are currently seen at Queen’s Hospital in Romford, which is approximately 45 minutes away by public transport.
Committee chairman Cllr Neil Zammett (Lab, Goodmayes) pointed out that the children’s ward in Homerton Hospital in neighbouring Hackney reopened in early May.
CCG managing director Ceri Jacob said: “The hospital would not have coped if we had not been able to make the changes that needed to be changed.
“We do not really know exactly what we are going to need for another 18 months. I do not think we can say anything is permanent at the moment.
“The activity is not yet a problem in the paediatric service, we need to understand where it settles before we take any final decision.
“If there’s change that needs to be permanent, we will go through the normal consultation process.”
The trust’s chief medical officer Magda Smith said: “The safety of our young patients is paramount as we manage the ongoing challenges of Covid-19, which we know will continue for many months to come.
“Co-locating inpatient paediatric services at Queen’s Hospital at this time means we have the specialist care for children in one place.
“We are closely monitoring the small number of children who come to King George Hospital and those that need further care or to be admitted, undertaking daily reviews to ensure their continued safety.
“We will also continue to work with our commissioners and other colleagues to ensure we fully understand the needs of our young patients across our boroughs so that we have in place the right services in the right places for them.”