A decision taken this week to temporarily reduce the level of care for sick children at Whipps Cross Hospital has been slammed by campaigners.

The Leytonstone hospital, run by Barts Health NHS Trust, has had to reduce the number of outpatient beds from 27 to 20 as a result of nurse shortages in the children's Acorn Ward.

Barts NHS Trust has said the reduction will be in place until July 1, although Mary Burnett of campaign group, Waltham Forest Save Our NHS, expects the cutback to last longer.

She said: "The news that beds on Acorn ward are being reduced by 25% will be of real concern for local parents.

"Sadly it is of no surprise given the down banding of experienced staff across Barts Health Trust.

"Our campaign group has been raising concerns for months about cuts to posts, down banding of staff, and a culture of bullying within Barts Health.

"Given all this the real worry is that the cut to beds will continue beyond July 1 because Barts will not be able to recruit enough experienced staff," said Ms Burnett.

In January, a report published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published mixed results including improvements to services but also instances of staff being bullied by bosses across the trust.

Mr Burnett said: "Unless the trust convinces staff that it really values, and rewards them I fear this sort of action will be repeated again and again throughout the Trust."

European election candidate for London and founder of National Health Action (NHA) group for Waltham Forest, Andrew Sharp, is highly critical of Barts Health.

He said: "The news is shocking, though not that surprising in light of the poor personnel management practices at Barts.

"I don't know what they thought they would achieve other than chaos by down banding most of their nursing staff - very shoddy treatment.

"Ultimately I believe that Whipps will be wound down and closed, resulting in our borough losing its only general hospital."

A spokesperson for Barts NHS Trust said: "The safety of our patients is our priority at all times. 

"This temporary situation has had no impact on the clinical care and wellbeing of our paediatric patients, but we will continue to monitor the situation closely."

Any children requiring urgent or emergency care could be transferred to either Newham University Hospital or The Royal London Hospital if the hospital.