Royal Free Hospital’s paediatric services to close for winter as part of Covid-19 ‘second wave’ planning – with Whittington services expanding

The Royal Free's paediatric services are to close with the Whittington and Great Ormond Street picki

The Royal Free's paediatric services are to close with the Whittington and Great Ormond Street picking up the slack as part of a reorganisation for winter 2020-2021 amid Covid-19 'second wave' planning. Picture: Sam Volpe - Credit: Archant

The Royal Free Hospital is to close its paediatric accident and emergency department and in-patient services over the coming winter – North London Partners in Health and Care (NLP) has confirmed.

The move comes after a review of hospital services across north London and NLP – a “sustainability and transformation partnership” made up of local councils, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and health providers in Barnet, Enfield, Haringey, Camden and Islington – designed to “ensure children and young people can access appropriate care in view of the potential challenge of a second Covid-19 surge and winter pressures”.

It was announced on the Royal Free Hospital’s intranet system on August 24 – and a spokesperson for the NLP confirmed this publicly on Tuesday.

The Whittington Hospital’s paediatric A&E will expand to meet forecast demand, while Barnet Hospital’s A&E services have already reopened, having been shut between March and late August.

Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital will provide “an enhanced role for urgent elective inpatient and some – but not all – day surgery”.

A decision has yet to be made on when these changes will kick in, health bosses said.

The spokesperson said the “top priority” was to “provide safe, high quality services that best meet the needs of our patients” and said decision-making has been “clinically led”.

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But the move has been greeted with consternation by some staff at the Royal Free. One senior member of clinical staff told the Ham&High: “It’s nominally just for six months, but my concern is that once they’ve established a service like this it will be hard to move it back.”

The source said they worried the move was part of “the preferred longer-term direction of travel” and had been “expedited under the cover of ‘pandemic preparedness’”.

Asked how long this would last, the NLP spokesperson said it will be in place “throughout the winter”.

Matthew Parris from Healthwatch Camden said it is “vital” the move is adequately communicated.

He told this paper: “Clearly communication is key. The NHS needs to do a lot around communicating this to patients.”

He said the watchdog would also be looking for assurances on patient safety from health chiefs.

If you are concerned about this move or would like to discuss it with the Ham&High, contact Sam Volpe on or write a letter to