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 decalred: “The Whittington has the lowest mortality rate of any trust in England and is hitting all the national targets on waiting times.”
However, he did acknowledge that morale was low and the level of complaint was higher than the national average.
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.