Yesterday was D-Day for the future of health services in Havering and Redbridge. The morning saw the publication of the Care Quality Commission report into failings in the maternity unit at Queens Hospital. The report was so damning that it led the evening news bulletins and was even covered on Channel 4.
Hot on its heels came the long awaited report from the Independent Review Group looking at the proposal to move maternity and A & E Services out of King Georges Hospital into the much criticised Queens. This is an interesting and detailed report which certainly acknowledges the failings of both services at Queens. My submission which covered future demand and the challenges of transport to Queens has clearly been taken into account. So has the widespread fear - not too strong a word - expressed by patients and their local representatives, at the prospect of being forced into an already overloaded and failing site.
Unfortunately the evidence from local hospital managers and GP groups seems to have won the day, with the IRP concluding that concentrating services at Queens is the only way to improve them - a seemingly perverse proposition in current conditions. The hospital management have plans to improve both maternity and A & E and these plans include work to enlarge the buildings housing the units. The IRP agreed that services should move to Queens but only after the performance of this hospital had been improved.
The Secretary of State has agreed with the IRP conclusions.
So the campaign to save services at King Georges needs to consider its next move. We have to go through both reports in detail, questioning some of the assumptions made and the weight placed on evidence from service users as opposed to service providers. The decision could still be challenged and I believe we will find good grounds to do so.
And we also need to ask how much services at Queens need to improve before the move goes ahead. This must involve the completion of the physical enlargement of both units, but we also need to know how service improvement - particularly patients' experiences - will be measured and how confidence will be restored. How will we know if the services have improved sufficiently and what happens if they fail to achieve the target?
Most importantly we need to maintain the political unity that has seen figures as diverse as Andrew Rosindell and Margaret Hodge come together to defend our hospitals and constituents.