For much of June I have been laid low with a chest infection which has meant a visit to Queen's Hospital for a x-ray and a course of mega antibiotics. I have attended all the essential meetings, but non essential stuff has been postponed and campaigning has been on hold. I certainly haven't had the energy to blog about things.
However yesterday I gave evidence to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, the body which is reviewing plans to close services at King Georges Hospital. I found them sympathetic and genuinely open minded about the Health For North East London plans, and they asked some very thoughtful questions.
The panel have been asked to ensure the plans will provide a 'safe, sustainable and accessible' health service for residents. I concentrated on the sustainable and accessible elements, as I know that many other witnesses will focus on safety and the investigation into Queen's Hospital ordered yesterday by the Care Quality Commission will also obviously comment on safety.
I produced a short statement which is copied here:
STATEMENT TO THE IRP - 29 JUNE 2011
EVIDENCE OF CLLR ROGER EVANS AM
I am the elected member of the London Assembly representing the constituency of Havering and Redbridge which covers both King George's Hospital and Queen's Hospital. I was elected in 2000 and I have lived in Romford town centre since 2002. Prior to that I lived in Leytonstone for fourteen years and used Whipps Cross Hospital on a number of occasions, so I am very familiar with the area affected by these proposals.
In 2006 I was elected to Havering Council, representing Elm Park Ward and I chaired the authority's Regulatory Services Committee, deciding on major planning applications from 2006 to 2009.
I am also a member of the board of the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation, a body which seeks to bring economic development to the lower Lea Valley and the north bank of the Thames in Newham, Barking, Dagenham and Havering.
I would like to focus on the sustainability and accessibility of the Health For North East London proposals as I feel these are inadequate for an area which is growing and changing at a very fast rate.
I have no personal criticism of the standards of care provided by Queen's Hospital, but it is all too obvious that this relatively new facility is already overloaded following the closure and amalgamation of Harold Wood and Oldchurch Hospitals, which it was intended to replace.
The Mayor's London Plan envisages the provision of more housing and a consequent growth in population in both Havering and Redbridge. The current draft plan for the period 2011-2021 sets targets of 7,600 new homes for Redbridge and 12,350 new homes for Havering. The total population of Havering and Redbridge is projected to grow by almost 35,000 over the next decade.
Recent approval on appeal of a large residential development at Dover's Corner in Rainham has also set a precedent for more such developments along the A13 corridor. There will also be considerable population growth in Barking and Dagenham with a major residential development at Barking Riverside creating 10,800 new homes.
Queen's is already the hospital with the highest number of deliveries in London and the maternity unit has experienced some highly publicised and tragic incidents, brought about by existing overstretch. Demand is projected to continue to grow with Health For North East London predicting a need for 12,000 deliveries in the area by 2016-17. Closing the maternity unit at King George's Hospital will place even more pressure on Queen's and it is difficult to see how they will cope with this. The greatest growth in demand is predicted for boroughs on the west and south sides of the area so it seems strange to propose concentrating maternity services in the north east.
Queen's accident and emergency unit is also overstretched with long waiting times. During Christmas and New Year 2010-11 ambulances were regularly diverted to King George's accident and emergency because Queen's was overloaded. An increase in population is going to result in increased demand in coming years. Havering also has a higher number of pensioners than any other London borough and older people are particularly in need of hospital services including accident and emergency.
The concentration of services at Queen's will leave the three large boroughs of Havering, Redbridge and Barking & Dagenham with only one accident and emergency unit to serve 750,000 residents, comparing unfavourably with Inner London boroughs which each have a unit serving some 250,000 residents.
I believe that the proposals fail to take account of projected population growth in and around my constituency and will stretch already overloaded services at Queen's to beyond breaking point.
Although a new facility, Queen's Hospital suffers from inadequate parking for the patients and visitors that it already serves. There is little room on the site to provide extra parking so the assumption must be that public transport will be used by visitors and patients.
Yet only four bus services currently enter the hospital site with two of these, the 193 and 499, terminating there and the 175 and 365 providing a through service. The only bus route linking to Redbridge is the 128 to Claybury Broadway but this is a long and tortuous route and it doesn't enter the hospital site. I regularly receive requests from constituents who would like to see existing bus services extended or rerouted to the hospital, or even the provision of new services.
However space at Queen's to accept new services is limited. Furthermore the current budgetary challenges faced by Transport for London rule out expansion of the bus network in the short and medium term. If anything, the current focus is on protecting the routes now in place.
For ambulances or private vehicles taking patients to Queen's from Redbridge the connections between the boroughs are not good. The only trunk road is the A12 which suffers from congestion at peak commuting times and throughout the day. Recent roadworks at Redbridge Roundabout, Gants Hill Roundabout and Gallows Corner have all caused very considerable delays and although Gants Hill is now much improved, these major junctions present bottlenecks with the potential to cause further delays when engineering works are required.
In my opinion the Health For North East London proposals will make it harder for patients and their visitors in Redbridge to access the maternity and accident and emergency services that they need. They should be reconsidered.
29 June 2011