After last year’s victory, the fight goes on
The coalition of residents, patients, hospital staff, trade unions, local politicians and celebs that came together to defend our hospital has not gone away in the wake of the Whittington board’s U-turn on its plans – which we vigorously opposed – for building sell-offs, ward closures and job cuts.
The board has now opted for a bigger operation, with a faster turnover of patients – and early discharge, which is cause for major concern.
But we welcomed the board’s decision to ditch its earlier plans – hailed as a victory for the coalition – and its promise of expansion. However, the recent appointment of a new chair of the board has given the hospital management the impetus to forge ahead with the stalled bid for foundation trust status.
It was the terms of the original foundation trust bid – the financial restraints imposed on large parts of the hospital – that brought about the previous crisis and led to massive opposition.
So we continue to be wary about the management’s latest proposals. We want assurances that – in submitting a new bid – the management will not abandon the promises it made last year about an end to closures and a freeze on job cuts.
For more details about the progress of the campaign, and a list of future actions, visit the “Meetings and events” section of the website.
Hitchins seeks to allay fears over job cuts and closures
Fears of a renewed round of service reductions and job cuts at the Whittington came to the fore at a large DWHC public meeting chaired by Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn on Monday 3 March at St Mary’s church, Dartmouth Park Hill.
Steve Hitchins, the former mayor of Islington council, recently appointed as chair of the hospital board, sought to give assurances that he was committed to securing a viable future for the hospital, despite the millions of pounds worth of funding cuts that were being imposed by the coalition government.
The revelation that he was spearheading a second hospital bid for foundation trust status had sparked huge local concern about the possibility of a return to large-scale job losses and departmental closures.
But he argued that the foundation trust bid would guarantee the hospital’s independence, and because the application would be vetted by the CQC the Care Quality Commission there should be few fears about the provision of services.
“We want the hospital to become an integrated care organisation. But we haven’t made enough progress on achieving this, on taking treatments out to where people live. There are 45 other places in Islington and Haringey where services are already delivered,” he said.
And he paid tribute to the hard work of hospital staff. “The Whittington has the lowest mortality rate of any trust in England and is hitting all the national targets on waiting times.”
But he did acknowledge that morale was low and the level of complaint was higher than the national average.
However, several members of the audience continued to express dismay about the management’s latest proposals and declared their opposition to any reductions in services. A number were worried that jobs were likely to be put at risk.
DWHC chair Shirley Franklin said she was concerned about what an “integrated care organisation” would look like – that if the plan went ahead, it might sound the death knell for the Whittington as we had always known it, as a fully functioning local district hospital.
She said it was regrettable that staff morale was so low because staff worked extremely hard.
“Our campaign stopped the closure of the A&E unit and last year we helped put an end to further closures and job cuts, but rumours persist that under the management’s latest plans more could go –the rumours were that not only catering was being privatised, but also the hospital pharmacy and the IT system, and this could be only the start.
“We need to know what is going on – for the hospital management to give us the facts. It has been denied that the hospital budget is being cut by up to £40 million, but how much is being hived off the budget and what will the impact on jobs and services be?”
Jeremy Corbyn pointed out that services will survive as long as people are prepared to fight for them. “Local campaigning made sure we still have a Whittington today. Without it the A&E unit would have closed down – and that’s why we have to continue the fight,” he said.
Support for NHS protest at Tory conference in Manchester
Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition activists were among 50,000 protesters who demonstrated in Manchester on Sunday 29 September as Conservative party delegates gathered in the city for the start of their annual conference.
The Save Our NHS protest was backed by health service unions whose members work at the Whittington.
The march was organised by the TUC, whose general secretary Frances O’Grady told a rally in the centre of Manchester that the NHS was facing the gravest crisis in its history.
“After promising there would be no top-down re-organisation, the government is wasting billions implementing reforms nobody wants and nobody voted for,” she said.
“The Prime Minister said NHS spending would be protected, but we’re seeing increased rationing of treatments, rising waiting lists, a growing number of closures and accident and emergency wards in disarray.
“In the last three months alone 21,000 NHS employees have lost their jobs, and those nurses, doctors and other health professionals that remain feel that no-one is listening to them and that they are being asked to achieve more with less.”
for Downing Street
Thousands of marchers converged on Whitehall on Saturday 18 May in a big demonstration of support for the Defend London’s NHS campaign.
Many of us from the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition were at the head of the march, which brought together campaigners from across London, as it set off from the South Bank to Downing Street. Our Shirley Franklin, chair of DWHC, told the marchers what had been happening at the Whittington just before the start. See the video here.
The rally in Whitehall was addressed by Camden Keep Our NHS Public chair Candy Udwin, and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn, before a letter was handed in to 10 Downing Street saying that the closure of nine A&E units across London, a number of maternity units and thousands of hospital beds will put Londoners’ lives at risk.
The letter said: “We support a National Health Service which is publicly funded, publicly delivered and publicly accountable, delivering care according to need and free at the time of access, to everyone irrespective of personal wealth.
“We are calling on the Prime Minister for an immediate end to the closures and privatisation threats to London’s NHS.”