Jeremy Corbyn speaks out on Whittington Hospital NHS maternity service closure proposal

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Jeremy Corbyn has spoken out after proposals were announced to close maternity services at either the Whittington or the Royal Free Hospital in north London.

Jeremy Corbyn has called for maternity and neonatal services at a north London hospital to be protected, following the announcement that they are being considered for closure.

The independent Islington North MP and former Labour leader says the services at the borough's Whittington Hospital should be expanded in future.

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If new proposals are adopted by the NHS in north London, maternity and neonatal services will close at either the Whittington or the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. The latter is listed as the preferred option and if the North Central London Integrated Care Board (NCL) agrees to progress the plans, a public consultation will be launched in December. Services would be consolidated at four hospitals - also including University College Hospital, Barnet Hospital and North Middlesex University Hospital - serving people in Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington.

Mr Corbyn told LondonWorld: “I fully support and admire the Whittington Hospital for all that it does for our community, and I continue to support efforts to protect its excellent maternity and neonatal services. I have encouraged and supported health planners to respect the outstanding record of the Whittington’s maternity and neonatal care. And I hope that in future developments the service will expand, so that this care is not just available for our immediate community in Islington but for people in Enfield, Camden, Islington, Barnet and Haringey too.”

Announcing the proposals this week, NCL chief medical officer Jo Sauvage said: “While NHS front-line staff work incredibly hard to deliver good quality maternity, neonatal and paediatric surgical care, services aren’t currently set up in the best way to meet the changing needs of local people. Fewer babies are being born in North Central London and more complex care is often needed during pregnancy and birth, and we need to adapt our services to that. Our goal is to align services with the changing needs of the community and continually evolving best practice."

Jeremy Corbyn in September 2023 in London. (Photo by Eamonn M McCormack/Getty Images)Jeremy Corbyn in September 2023 in London. (Photo by Eamonn M McCormack/Getty Images)
Jeremy Corbyn in September 2023 in London. (Photo by Eamonn M McCormack/Getty Images) | Getty Images
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She told LondonWorld: “The Royal Free Hospital is so important for the people of Hampstead and Kilburn and a tremendous source of pride for me as the local MP," she said. "The maternity unit has a particularly special place in my heart, not just because of the many constituents that it serves but also because I had both of my children there.

“I’m very concerned about the suggestion that our local maternity unit could be closed, given the number of local residents who I know rely on it and some of the transport difficulties in reaching other north London hospitals with maternity services. The consultation on proposed changes has yet to begin, but I will be making it clear now and throughout any consultation process that there must not be any downgrading of services available to people in Hampstead and Kilburn. I will always fight for the Royal Free Hospital and it would be a tragedy to lose such an important service.”

Separate proposals could see the development of a centre of expertise for emergency and inpatient surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital, as well as a centre of expertise for day case surgery at University College London Hospitals.

Recommendations have also been made to consult on closing the birth suites at Edgware Birth Centre, but keeping ante and post-natal services open.

If the NCL board agrees to progress the proposals, a 14-week public consultation will be launched on December 11.

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