Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Fate of Whipps end-of-life ward still undecided

Care for dying patients is currently provided in Whipps Cross' highly regarded Margaret Centre

Hero for Fate of Whipps end-of-life ward still undecided
Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone

Whipps Cross chiefs have yet to decide "completely" whether there will be a specialist end-of-life ward in the new hospital.

An “outline” hospital plan was approved by Waltham Forest Council on 24th November but the exact design is still being negotiated with the government.

Campaigners fear specialist palliative care unit The Margaret Centre may not be rebuilt, which they argue could leave patients to have a "traumatic" death at home.

At a joint committee meeting to scrutinise plans for the new hospital on 6th December, Action4Whipps campaigner Frances Simmons warned the service could end up being "precariously funded" if "decoupled" from the hospital.

She said: “Specialist palliative care at end-of-life units can’t be replaced in people’s own homes or hospitals.

“From personal experience related to us, families want to be supported through long illnesses, and for people to have a good death.

“It’s a huge responsibility for someone with complex needs to die at home, it’s traumatic when it goes badly wrong."

Redbridge councillor Juditch Garfield agreed that the level of care would be diminished if palliative care was “dotted around” the hospital.

She added: “My view would really be that unless there is a specialist in-patient unit I have grave concerns that this is going to result in poorer outcomes for people at end of life and am very concerned about that.”

The hospital’s new chief executive, Ralph Coulbeck, insisted that nothing has yet been “decided on completely”.

He said: “The thing that we’ve come to recognise about the Margaret Centre is the benefits of seamless transition the centre’s environment creates and the focus on end-of-life care.

“All those all things will be carried on to the new hospital, we haven't made that decision about how that would be configured,

“The old hospital has very few side rooms, it’s cramped, not conducive to end-of-life care, in that context we have to look at how we approach the Margaret Centre in that new environment.”

“We have not necessarily decided on a completely dispersed service, I would stress that while the Margaret Centre is highly valued and, we’ve heard a lot this evening, we still provide the end-of-life care across the hospital that is often necessary.”

The committee heard a wider strategy for palliative care in Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest will be published in April 2022.

Councillors also recommended an in-patient unit for end-of-life care be included in the new hospital’s design.