Parent 'nervous' over possible closure of Royal Free nurseries

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

Parent Dan Ward with his two daughters who go to the Royal Free nursery - Credit: Dan Ward

An “aggrieved” parent says the proposed closure of the Royal Free Hospital nurseries would make the lives of staff working through the pandemic even more difficult. 

The Hampstead hospital in Pond Street is consulting until the end of March on shutting both of its nurseries, as it faces costs of up to £250,000 including repair and refurbishment works.

Consultation letters to parents and staff show that the nurseries could close in June or August.  

The documents say the required investment, combined with the “ongoing revenue deficit”, may leave the nurseries “unaffordable” and “unsustainable”. 

Dan Ward, whose wife works at the Royal Free and whose two children, aged one and four, go to the nursery, said he feared for lower paid staff if they were forced to pay for childcare elsewhere.  

The staff day nursery in Pond Street

The staff day nursery in Pond Street - Credit: Archant

“For those local to the hospital, with Hampstead and Highgate sort of prices, it's probably going to be impossible,” the 39-year-old said.    

Dan, from Gospel Oak, said he was “nervous” about the “upsetting” proposals, but that he acknowledged the hospital’s efforts to work with staff and parents through the consultation.  

He added: “I feel aggrieved, firstly for the nursery staff who could lose their jobs in a time when other nurseries could be closing. 

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“And also for the staff who have been working so hard during the pandemic, only for their lives to be made more difficult in finding new childcare or in some instances having to give up the job they love, as they cannot afford other local alternatives.” 

Suggestions other than closure posed during the consultation include moving the nurseries to a different space such as Queen Mary’s House; approaching the Royal Free Charity for financial support; retaining only one of the nurseries; or increasing fees.  

The Royal Free Hospital

The Royal Free Hospital - Credit: Archant

Jim Mansfield, Unison’s branch secretary for the Royal Free, said the nursery provision is “definitely needed”, and that closure would be the “totally wrong decision”. 

A Royal Free spokesperson said: “The Royal Free London is consulting with staff and parents over the future of two nurseries at the Royal Free Hospital which are used by approximately 20 children. 

"No decision has yet been taken and there will be no immediate changes, and any final decisions will be made after the outcome of the consultation has been considered by the trust.” 

Building repair works have temporarily reduced the number of children enrolled to approximately 20. But in total, the closure would see around 75 places lost.