Shirley Franklin: 'It feels like there is an attempt to hoodwink the Whittington community into believing that we are getting a better health resource'
Published: 12 February, 2013
By TOM FOOT
WHITTINGTON bosses will face the public for the first time tonight (Tuesday) over a dramatic plan to dismantle the Highgate hospital.
The entire board will be at the meeting in Archway Methodist Hall which starts at 7.30pm.
Hundreds are expected and microphones have been hooked up to four overflow rooms to accommodate the crowd.
It follows last month's hush-hush decision by the board to sell off £17million worth of public buildings in the north half of the hospital site – including all staff accommodation – and close three wards on the main site, halve the total number of patient beds to 177 and axe 570 jobs, including around 200 nurses. The radical changes only came to public attention after a New Journal exclusive last month.
Under the plans, services would be moved out of the hospital and into neighbourhood health centres while funds created from the sale to improve maternity services and open a “same day treatment centre” to the A&E.
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn has told the House of Commons the push of service into the community was “very dangerous” and raised concerns for the viability of the A&E with so few beds remaining.
On Monday, the hospital issued a statement which said Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone “endorsed” the Trust’s plan. Ms Featherstone said the hospital's press statement is not an accurate reflection of her position and the hospital had not won an 'endorsement' from her. The hospital apologised for claiming she had endorsed the changes on Tuesday afternoon.
Shirley Franklin, chairwoman of Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition, said: “It feels like there is an attempt to hoodwink the Whittington community into believing that we are getting a better health resource. We welcome improvements, but not a loss of hospital beds. hospital property, hospital staff. The Whittington is a victim of the cuts of your government and of the dreadful Health and Social Care legislation. We retain our demands - no sell-off, no loss of hospital beds, no sacking of any staff.”
Speakers at tonight's meeting will include MPs, doctors, campaigners from across London and the author Owen Jones.
Thousands have already signed internet petitions and on Monday a special meeting was called in the House of Commons where NHS campaigners across London agreed to form a united front ahead of a proposed march down the Holloway Road on March 16.
In a joint statement, the London NHS campaign groups said: “An unprecedented coalition of London residents, medical staff, trade unions and health campaigners has come together to raise the alarm regarding the biggest threats to A&E’s, maternity units and in-hospital care for a generation.”
Doctors challenged the notion that planned closures are clinically led. But on the same day, the hospital's chairman Joe Liddane said the plans had the “enthusiastic backing of local Clinical Commissioning Groups, made of up of local GPs”.
He added: “As well as being the trusted advisor for patients, GPs are now in charge of telling Trusts like the Whittington Hospital what local people need from their services.”
From April, groups of doctors in Camden and Islington will take over the NHS budget and will dictate policy and the way the health service is funded.
Chief executive Dr Yi Mien Koh said: “The future of the Trust lies in looking forward and planning how best to meet the needs of the local community within Whittington Health’s available resources.
“Our plan for Whittington Health is a positive one with this much-loved NHS organisation firmly at the heart of the community and receiving significant investment in services.”
She also acknowledged that the plans should be better explained in detail to demonstrate to the local community the changes, which “have the support of local GPs, are for the best”.
She said the changes were being driven by a shortfall in funding from central government and a need to balance the books before bosses can apply to become a foundation trust hospital.
Dr Koh added the hospital does not achieve FT status it could be taken over by other trusts, like University College London Hospital.