NHS Royal Free Hospital maternity closure: Hampstead MP Tulip Siddiq - 'I had both my children there'
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Hampstead's MP has spoken out about a proposal to close maternity services at the Royal Free Hospital, saying: "I had both my children there."
North Central London Integrated Care Board (NCL) is considering closing maternity and neonatal services at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead or the Whittington Hospital in Archway - with the former the preferred option.
The NHS board said the services will be provided at the remaining four of five hospitals - which also include University College Hospital, Barnet Hospital and North Middlesex University Hospital - serving people in Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington.
Tulip Siddiq MP, in whose Hampstead and Kilburn constituency the Royal Free sits, told LondonWorld she is concerned about the number of patients who would struggle to get to an alternative hospital.
“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.”
Ms Siddiq has previously spoken in support of retaining services at the Royal Free. During the pandemic, in 2020, the hospital's children's A&E was temporarily closed, although it did reopen in 2021, despite concerns there were moves to make the change permanent.
If NCL's board approves to progress with the proposals a 14-week public consultation will be launched on December 11.
Jo Sauvage, NCL chief medical officer, 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."
NCL says medical staff "have led the design of the proposed options over the past two years, with input from parents, patients and families to arrive at these proposals". They have been jointly developed with NHS England Specialised Commissioning.
Dr Sauvage said: “We firmly believe every baby and child should have the best start in life. Good foundations in pregnancy and birth have a big influence on life chances and support reducing inequalities. So it is important that pregnant women and people have a positive birth experience and we ensure that everyone has access to the same high quality services no matter where they live or choose to have their baby.”
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.