Royal Free paediatric closures: NHS bosses hope ‘new normal will be better than the old normal’

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

Councillors from five north London boroughs questioned NHS bosses about the speed and scope of changes to hospital services ahead of a second wave of Covid-19.

As part of preparations, the Royal Free’s paediatric services have been closed for six months, with provision at the Whittington expanded.

Responding to concerns from councillors and the grassroots NCL NHS Watch group, Rob Hurd – who has been leading North London Partners’ (NLP) response to the coronavirus pandemic – said all changes were temporary.

NLP is a partnership of NHS bodies in across Camden, Haringey, Islington, Barnet and Enfield.

Mr Hurd said: “The objective will be the ‘new normal’ will be better than the ‘old normal’ in the context of the disease profile we face in the population.

READ MORE: Royal Free paediatrics: A&E to shut amid criticism of transparencyREAD MORE: Tulip Siddiq demands health secretary guarantee future of Royal Free children’s A&E“Permanent changes will need to reflect a whole new set of conditions as well as where we have come from before.”

He told those present at Haringey’s joint health overview and scrutiny meeting that NLP would meet all statutory obligations to consult with the public and local authorities on any permanent arrangements.

A deputation to the meeting from NCL NHS Watch’s Alan Morton and Brenda Allan drew attention to a perceived lack of accountability.

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Mr Morton said that during the pandemic “NHS reorganisation has gathered pace but with less consultation and less scrutiny than before”.

Barbara added: “We are concerned the NHS will become more centralised and financially driven, less subject to democratic oversight, and more remote from its users, which would harm us all.”

Mr Hurd responded: “All changes are temporary. What we are doing is responding to a national major incident, a previously unknown disease and we are responding week to week.”

Addressing concerns about the closure of paediatric services at the Royal Free and University College Hospital, he said the aim was to shore up “better and more resilient” access to services for children by “consolidating our staffing so we can offer better access through the winter”.

Senior doctors have told the Ham&High they fear that centralising paediatric care is a long-term ambition for health bosses.

Mr Hurd said “best efforts” have been made to communicate with stakeholders and a “comprehensive communications strategy” is in place.