Royal Free to close Pond Street day nursery amid MP and parents' worry

The staff day nursery in Pond Street

The day nursery in Pond Street, opposite the Royal Free - Credit: Archant

The Royal Free is facing criticism after deciding to close its day nursery in Pond Street which it claims has become “financially unsustainable”. 

A letter from a Royal Free exec to staff and parents, shared with the Ham&High, stated that the Pond Street nursery would need £812,000 investment following a review of the repair costs.  

The smaller Busy Bees nursery, housed inside the Royal Free and which faces repairs of £90,000, will remain open.  

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq said: “I share the disappointment of many local NHS staff and their families about the plan to close the Pond Street nursery. 

“I’ve written to the [Royal Free] Trust to raise the concerns that my constituents have shared with me about this decision and the consultation process.”

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq

Tulip Siddiq MP said she shares the disappointment of staff and families - Credit: Polly Hancock

Gospel Oak parent Dan Ward, who has two children at the nursery and whose wife works at the Royal Free, said the consultation was “fundamentally flawed” in failing to address alternatives to keep the Pond Street site open.  

He said: “I feel sorry for the staff affected, both the staff at the nursery and also the hospital staff who aren’t going to have the provision for childcare they’ve been able to rely on previously, especially the lower paid ones.” 

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Dan said the decision “felt like an excuse” to shut the Pond Street site, and he challenged how dwindling places would now be allocated against the level of local need for childcare. The father-of-two hoped fundraising efforts could now begin to save the nursery.

Dan Ward with his two daughters who go to the Royal Free nursery

Gospel Oak parent Dan Ward said he now feared for parents and staff - Credit: Dan Ward

Amid fears of parents and staff the building could be turned from childcare into commercial use, the letter confirming the closure said the hospital would shortly begin looking at options for the site. 

The letter acknowledged “formal complaints” of parents following the consultation, and stated the hospital would consider expanding the Busy Bees nursery into the Rec Club.

Jim Mansfield, Unison’s branch secretary for the Royal Free, said staff are "obviously angry and upset", and that its long-term aim remained to refurbish and reopen the Pond Street nursery. 

"The decision to close the Pond Street building is a blow to our hard-working staff who depend on in-house nursery provision to enable them to carry out their roles, while being sure that their children are being looked after while they spend their working hours looking after the public.

"Hopefully the Trust will be in a position to revisit this issue and reopen the Pond Street building," Jim said.

A spokesperson for the Royal Free said: “The trust is working to support staff and parents affected by the changes to nursery provision at the Royal Free Hospital.  

“The Pond Street nursery requires significant repairs and is not financially sustainable. It will remain open until the repairs to Busy Bees are complete to ensure nursery provision can continue for our staff.” 

The Pond Street nursery currently accommodates 23 children. In 2020 it had a capacity for 46 kids. Nursery fees are staggered according to staff pay bands. A meeting confirming the closure was held with parents and staff on July 23.

The Royal Free did not provide details on the impact of the closure to jobs and places for children.