'Discussions' to be held over future of Royal Free children's services

Kete Slemeck Royal Free CEO

Kate Slemeck, chief executive of the Royal Free Hospital. - Credit: Royal Free London

Children’s services will return to the Royal Free hospital, its chief executive has said – but will then face "discussions" over their future.  

In an interview with the Ham&High, Kate Slemeck said services might look “different” after a series of talks, to be held in spring. 

In September, it was announced that paediatric services, including the children’s A&E, would temporarily move to the Whittington Hospital, freeing up space at the Royal Free to tackle the predicted second wave of Covid-19.  

But some staff contacted the Ham&High to voice concerns that the pandemic was being used to "expedite" what were actually intended as long-term changes.  

Ms Slemeck said: “Making sure children have a safe place to go has been the right thing to do. We have utilised capacity here differently whilst children’s services is done at the Whittington. 

"The plan is to start reversing those changes at the end of March... We definitely will be moving services back.” 


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But she added: “Then there will be a set of discussions about what the future may look like; might the future be different, because we’ve learnt quite a lot from these changes.  

“But any changes would need to be formally consulted on both with staff and with the general public.” 

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A member of staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they believed a permanent relocation of children’s services to the Whittington would be detrimental for staff and patients. 

“The Royal Free has various specialties that the Whittington does not have, such as plastic surgery, paediatric gastroenterology, paediatric ophthalmology and eating disorders,” they said.  

“It also has a newly refurbished children’s A&E and a newly refurbished children’s inpatient ward.” 

The staff member alleged that the Whittington was not as well-resourced.  

“Royal Free Hospital has a larger amount of space for children’s services and a larger nursing and medical team,” they said.  

“Medical trainees in emergency medicine and anaesthesia do a rotation in the children’s services in the Royal Free. Moving these services away will affect the training that junior doctors in these services receive.”

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