THE CEDAR CENTRE, the chemotherapy unit at the King George Hospital in Ilford is to shut down on November 12th, because it cannot find the four nurses that are required to keep it going!
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust has also said it is not opening an ambulatory ward, despite the most urgent pleas for it to do so! This is a ward designed to treat emergency patients on the same day, separate from the A&E department. It means that patients are assessed, diagnosed, treated and are able to go home the same day, without being admitted into a hospital bed overnight.
A spokesman said: ‘It is more effective to centralise this service at Queen’s Hospital.’ Cancer patients will have to travel to Queen’s Hospital in Rom Valley Way, Romford instead.
Chris Brown, interim chief executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge (BHR) University Hospital Trust, confirmed the closure of the chemotherapy unit in an email! He said: ‘I can confirm we have had four resignations, alongside two members of staff on maternity leave.
‘Chemotherapy nurses are highly specialised and nationally are a particularly hard to recruit staff group, so this is a big concern for us. ‘Having reviewed the options, we have concluded that there is no solution available that will allow both the safe delivery of chemotherapy treatment at King George and that is acceptable from a patient experience perspective.
‘We have therefore made the decision based on clinical safety grounds that we will centralise chemotherapy services at Queen’s Hospital from 12 November onwards, and no longer deliver treatment at King George.’
When the NHS is unable to provide the four nurses to keep this vital unit going, and the cover for two staff on maternity leave it is time to ring all the alarm bells and to take emergency action to defend the NHS.
Brown confirmed that the Cedar Centre will be developed into a ‘Living with and Beyond Cancer’ hub, offering health and wellbeing support to patients – instead of a cancer cure.
Andy Walker, who has campaigned against the closure of King George Hospital since 2010, was shocked by the news. He said: ‘This is completely unacceptable, the government has to get a grip on the situation and the secretary of state needs to issue a statement. We cannot afford to have any unplanned closures at King George going into winter.’
Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North said: ‘It is a worrying sign of the staffing crisis in the NHS that the local trust says it cannot safely operate the chemotherapy unit at King George Hospital. ‘This will mean longer travel times for vulnerable patients and concerns about stretched capacity. The government must urgently get a grip on the staffing crisis in the NHS that has led to the shortage of key staff like chemotherapy nurses.’
Mike Gapes, Labour MP for Ilford South said: ‘This is appalling news. It raises big concerns about the attitude of the new leadership of BHR Hospitals to the overall future of services at King George Hospital.’
Before the news broke, Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal said he was writing a letter to Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock, saying: ‘I am seeking Mr Hancock’s intervention and an assurance that all closure plans for the vital and much needed A&E service at King George are completely taken off the table.’
He will get no such assurance!!!
More than 500 patients a year received their cancer treatment at the Cedar Centre. It cannot be allowed to close on November 12, followed by the A&E, both destroyed by savage Tory NHS cuts, the ending of bursaries for student nurses that has contributed to over 42,000 nurse vacancies, and the kind of ‘wage rises’ that recently saw the RCN removing its entire leadership after it recommended a wage rise that was in reality a wage cut.
The trade unions at St George’s must refuse to accept any of the cuts and closures and instead form a Council of Action to fight the cuts and keep the Cedar Centre open. The health unions must demand that the TUC call a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers government that will end the NHS cash crisis by nationalising the banks and the drug companies.