Mothers-to-be will not be able to give birth at Ealing Hospital as of this summer, the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has confirmed.
Ealing Hospital’s maternity unit will close and its services will be consolidated into six hospital sites – all of which will have their facilities upgraded – across north-west London, as well as being delivered through more midwifery-led care in the community, from July 1.
The decision was taken during a meeting of the Ealing CCG Governing body on Wednesday (May 20).
A protest took place on Wednesday and health campaigners from Ealing Save Our NHS were joined by local mums, Ealing North MP Steve Pound and MP for Ealing Central & Acton Rupa Huq.
A colourful ambulance helped draw attention to the protests, provided by 38 Degrees campaign members, but despite cries of "shame on you", the CCG went ahead with announcing the closure of the maternity unit.
Eve Turner, secretary of Ealing Save Our NHS Campaign, said: “The closure of Ealing Hospital’s excellent and highly rated maternity unit is at the expense of thousands of local mothers in one of London’s most deprived areas.
"They will have to travel much further at their time of need and can no longer expect to receive a continuity of care from the same midwives.
"No sooner was the election out of the way than the CCG has gone ahead with this unpopular and damaging plan, requested by the unaccountable Shaping A Healthier Future team.
"Far from being planned by local doctors to meet the needs of local women, this has in reality been decided upon by expensive management consultants, who were asked to split up and cut NHS services in north-west London. They fully intend to carry on running down Ealing Hospital."
Speaking after the announcement, Steve Pound said: "It's a heartbreaking decision.
"For three years it's been under threat of closure and it's no surprise that consultants and clinicians do not want to work there, but to use that as a justification for closure is indefensible.
"There will be no children born in Ealing except at home in the future and that can't be right."
The CCG insist the changes will improve healthcare for women across north-west London by increasing midwife-to-birth ratios, providing more senior consultant cover in maternity units and moving towards 24/7 consultant cover on the labour ward, and greater investment in home birth teams.
Most women from Ealing who choose to give birth at Hillingdon, West Middlesex, Northwick Park, Queen Charlotte’s and St Mary’s hospitals will still be able to have the majority of their antenatal and postnatal appointments at Ealing Hospital, if they wish.
Dr Mohini Parmar, Ealing GP and Chair of NHS Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Midwives and clinicians are clear these changes will help improve healthcare for women across north-west London by providing more consultant-led care and more midwives in our local communities.
“After much work, we now have the additional staffing, beds and facilities in our other hospitals in order to make this transition.
“We will be contacting all women who are currently booked to give birth at Ealing Hospital to discuss whether they are affected by the closure date or not, and what their options are.
“We also continue to work with midwives at Ealing Hospital to help support them in making this transition.”
The changes were first proposed by healthcare professionals across north-west London in 2013 as part of the Shaping A Healthier Future programme.