Saturday, February 13, 2010


As hundreds of hardy, able-bodied local residents gathered outside Redbridge Town Hall after marching from King George Hospital over the proposed closure of the Accident & Emergency facility there, Margaret reviews the practicalities of using the current health services.

My GP arranged for me to see a consultant at Queen’s. As I no longer drive, I was expected to go by the 128 bus but I could not face the cold bus stops and the walk from the 128 to get into the hospital and find my way to Outpatients. My GP said that my condition warranted transport by the ambulance. There is no direct bus from Ilford into the hospital grounds. It is 3 buses from Barkingside – one to Gants Hill or Ilford, one to Romford and then a hospital bus from Romford market. The driver warned me that if you are late because of trouble with the car, taxi or bus or problems with traffic jams or parking, you might have to make another appointment. Of course, they cannot always tell whether you are making excuses.

The first appointment was at 11am. After two phone calls to my GP’s surgery and one to Queen’s itself I learned that provided I went by ambulance, I would be seen and not sent home. It arrived after mid-day and the consultant saw me. Who was probably kept waiting while I was ushered in? The ambulance was late because the driver had to collect from far out in Essex. Collection may be from as far away as Colchester, I suppose because choice over-rules catchment considerations. I was ready to come home at 2pm, the ambulance was available at 4pm. I was offered a cup of tea in the ambulance waiting room, but had my lunch at 5pm.

On the second occasion, the ambulance reached Queens at 11am for a 9.45am appointment. It collected me at 9.30am this time. But we went all round Chadwell Heath and Barking to collect a full load. I did not have to wait long to come home on the second visit, but had learned that it is wise to take a packed lunch and some reading matter just in case. The café is not cheap and I know what is in food that I have prepared myself.

I have a third visit next week at 3.15pm, but must be ready for the ambulance at 8.45am as I was told that they collect patients up to mid-day. Presumably, afternoon journeys are for taking home. I have to say that the drivers have been kind and once at the hospital I received most tender, loving care and courteous treatment, but I shall go fully equipped to spend the day there.

With regard to KGH’s A&E, while it is true that many of those who go do not need treatment, they must have 24 hour consultations available. NHS Direct is not good enough for the mother who does not know whether her child just has a bad cold or meningitis. She wants the reassurance of seeing an expert, not just a phone call to assess the child’s condition. At present, neither GPs nor polyclinics are equipped to provide. Have the authorities costed the transport especially of those who have to rely on ambulances. Environmentally, the petrol and pollution costs of cars and taxis to reach Queen’s seem to have been ignored.


Note: speakers on the Town Hall steps included the two Ilford MPs, Lee Scott and Mike Gapes, Lady Bodge from Harking, the Green Party’s Wilson Chowdhry, our very own health champion cllr Mrs Loraine Sladden [Conseravtive] and the indomitable cllr Bob Littlewood [Labour]. Strangely no LibDems. Perhaps they were watching the football? Plus the Chairman of Health Scrutiny, Ralph Scott [LibDem].


  1. Margaret raises some important and perenially difficult issues about transport.

    Are we spoiled by living in a major city with buses, trains and minicabs in fair abundance? How would a patient requiring frequent outpatient appointments at hospital manage if he lived in a farmhouse in a remote part of the Yorkshire Dales or Dartmoor?

    It could be argued that Margaret will find access for her outpatient treatment easier when our proposed polyclinics are in situ.

    Some hospitals have volunteer drivers to cater for patients like Margaret, and what about the dial-a-ride scheme (is that still in operation?).

  2. Oh dear oh dear

    Ralph Scott also ppoke for the Lib Dems.

  3. Glad to hear it Jesse. My roving reporter probably didn't know who he was. I was watching the football!

  4. I was there as well and would have spoken but there was no shortage of good speakers so Ralph made the contribution for the Lib Dems. It was rather too cold for everyone to speak who wanted to do so. There were a number of Lib Dem Councillors and supporters there as well so we weren't all watching the football!

    Hugh Cleaver
    Leader of the Redbridge Liberal Democrat Council group

  5. What football? The Primary Care Trust (trust - what an inappropriate word!) is using our health facilities as a football.

  6. LOL! I like the amendment, very good!