THE scale of the problems facing the borough’s hospital trust has been revealed by figures showing it has received nearly £200 million in emergency bailouts.
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT) has been grappling with debt repayments since the £835 million rebuild of Queen’s Hospital in Romford got underway in 2006.
A survey of 31 hospital trusts around the country by the Health Service Journal found that no other had received so much from the government in the past five years.
The figures have once again thrown a spotlight on plans to downgrade Ilford’s King George Hospital (KGH), which is the only general hospital in Redbridge, and transfer A&E and maternity services to Queen’s.
Opponents have fought furiously against the plans which have been put on hold by health secretary Andrew Lansley in light of a damning report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) following a spate of deaths among mothers giving birth at the maternity unit at Queens.
BHRUT which runs both hospitals was given 81 targets by the CQC before the move could go ahead, but the Trust this week played down suggestions that it had already pencilled in a November date for the transfer to begin.
Havering Council has released minutes of a health scrutiny committee meeting in which it claimed to have been told of the November target.
But a spokeswoman for BHRUT said: “The council have got a little confused in their minutes of the meeting I'm afraid.
“£1.5 million is paying for the building works for Queen's new midwife-led maternity unit. It is this that is due to be open in November.”
Cllr Hugh Cleaver, who sits on Redbridge Council’s health scrutiny committee, said: “We have known for some time that BHRUT has serious financial problems, but they don’t seem able to resolve those issues.”
And Cllr Andy Walker, a campaigner for the cross party Save King George Hospital group, added: “They say bigger is better, but that is not the case at Queen’s Hospital.
“It is baffling, with money so tight and in all this debt, that they continue to expand at Queen’s Hospital while at the same time talking about getting rid of perfectly good facilities at King George.”