Hospital staff protest against planned closure of nurseries

Without alternative, affordable childcare provision, health workers in South London could be forced out of the NHS, says UNISON

Health workers and their children protesting outside the hospital

On Tuesday this week, health workers and their children gathered outside Cedar House nursery in South London to protest against trust managers’ plans to close the service, which provides affordable childcare to hospital workers.

The Cedar House Nursery, which is used by staff at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, is due to close next year, along with the together with the King’s College Hospital Day Nursery, to allow development of the building they share.

Neither trust has offered alternative childcare provision to parents who are dependent on the facilities, leaving workers who are already struggling to make ends meet terrified of the prospect of costly additional nursery bills if they need to find other places for their children.

Joining the protest, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said that, without alternatives, health workers in South London could be forced out of the NHS.

“Hospital-based childcare is crucial in allowing NHS staff to work long shifts. Many often work outside normal working hours when other nurseries are closed,” she said.

“The NHS is under huge pressure and trust managers should be doing all they can to hold on to staff. Closing essential support services will place immense stress on employees forced to look for alternative childcare. Others may well quit for jobs elsewhere.

“Hospital bosses must think again, or they could lose experienced staff needed to see the service through the difficult months and years ahead.”

Nursery user and Maudsley Hospital psychiatrist Dr Rowena Carter said: “The nursery is a real lifeline for me and my family. Having quality childcare right next to my workplace makes being a working parent so much easier.

“The nursery staff have been amazing throughout the pandemic. Because the nursery remained open, when many other childcare providers were shut, it meant frontline NHS staff like me were still able to be a key worker and a parent during the pandemic.

“Without the nursery, I won’t be able to continue the additional patient care work I do now.”

The local MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, Helen Hayes, also joined the protest. 

“Cedar House Nursery provides vital, high quality and affordable childcare on site for staff working at the Maudsley and the wider community,” said Ms Hayes.

“Senior managers at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust must work with UNISON to protect jobs at Cedar House and ensure continuity of nursery provision throughout the redevelopment.”

With vacancies across the NHS running into the tens of thousands, making it harder for working parents to stay in the health service or re-join the workforce make little sense, says UNISON.

Twenty nursery workers’ jobs are also on the line. Managers at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust have refused to guarantee workers their jobs when the Cedars nursery reopens, says UNISON. Staff at King’s College Hospital Day Nursery don’t know if their nursery will reopen at all. 

UNISON members want the trust to work with them to find solutions they can afford. Staff are nervous that hospital managers will use the closures as cover to privatise the nurseries – driving standards down, prices up and highly-trained nursery staff out of work.