Royal Free children's A&E: 'Fall in Covid-19 patients will see changes reversed'

The Royal Free Hospital in Pond Street

The Royal Free Hospital in Pond Street - Credit: Nigel Sutton

North London NHS bosses are "discussing transition plans" for reopening children's A&E at the Royal Free. 

"Senior leaders" have put in place "specific criteria" for when the temporary reorganisation of paediatric services in north London – which saw kids' A&E at the Royal Free and at UCL Hospital closed and services moved to the Whittington – would be reversed. 

The Whittington's service was expanded to help cope with the demand.

A specific timeline is not yet in place, but in January the chief exec of the Royal Free Hospital Kate Slemeck told this newspaper: ""The plan is to start reversing those changes at the end of March...We definitely will be moving services back.”

The decision to reorganise services was made by North London Partners (NLP) a "sustainability and transformation partnership" made up of ten different GP federations, the North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group (NCL CCG), five local authorities, and the hospital and mental health trusts operating in the area – including the Royal Free NHS Trust and the Whittington Health NHS Trust.

The decision was greenlit by NLP's North Central London Gold panel - on which sit a number of senior NHS figures including the Royal Free London Trust's chief medical officer, Dr Chris Streather.


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A NLP spokesperson said to ensure a "safe transition" some of the criteria considered when finalising the timeline for reversing the changes would be seeing an "ongoing fall in beds occupied by COVID-19 positive patients" and an "ongoing reduction in [North Central London] system escalation across all sectors, with a particular focus on critical care capacity".

They added: "These changes have been an important part of the whole system response to the extraordinary pressures that we have been managing over the past few months.

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"However these changes were only ever temporary in nature and our senior leaders have been discussing transition plans to reopen the paediatric emergency and general inpatient wards at Royal Free Hospital and University College Hospital."

The changes drew criticism from senior doctors and MPs, with many stakeholders concerned that the changes would be made permanent. 

In February, Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, told this newspaper: "I will keep fighting to reopen the children’s A&E as soon as possible and make sure that the government and other health bodies are transparent about their plans."

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