No more births at King George hospital from “early 2013”

There will be no more births at King George maternity unit from early next year, it has been revealed.

As part of a new drive, expectant mothers in Barking and Dagenham are also being asked to consider the wider range of birthing centres near to them, which include the new Barking Community Hospital and Whipps Cross.

It is hoped the initiative will help redistribute births across hospitals and birthing units in east London.

The rising birth rate in east London is a main trigger for the drive, NHS North East London and the City said.

Helen Brown, commissioning support director, added: “Changes need to happen so all women will get consistent, safe care. Where possible, we want local women to be able to have the type of birth that they want – be that at home, in a midwife-led unit or on a hospital ward.

“Maternity units across the area will have a limit on how many births they can handle each year. This means some women in Barking, Redbridge and Waltham Forest will be asked to deliver their babies at an alternative maternity unit.”

The plans to close the King George unit have been in the pipeline for years, and were agreed – subject to certain tests being passed – by the then health secretary Andrew Lansley last year.

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But the timeframe of “early 2013”, announced last week by NELC, is the first time specific dates have been given.

Mr Lansley said previously that the closure of services at King George would not happen until the health trust – which also runs Queen’s hospital - met certain criteria laid down by the Care Quality Commission.

Health watchdog the CQC had a raft of concerns about the maternity unit at Queen’s but many of the conditions it placed on the hospital have since been met.

Several new birthing centres have opened in the area in recent months and years.

Barking Community Hospital in Upney Lane opened its maternity centre in April, the Royal London in Whitechapel unveiled a much larger birthing service last year and a new midwifery-led unit is set to open at Queen’s.