The Independent London Newspaper


25,000 sign up to save Whittington Hospital

Campaigners fighting ‘frightening’ NHS cuts deliver big petition to Department of Health

Published: 05 August, 2010

CAMPAIGNERS fighting cuts to the NHS delivered a petition of more than 25,000 thousand signatures to the Department of Health last Thursday.

The Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition has swung back into action after NHS bureaucrats revealed proposals to dismantle the Highgate hospital were not dead and buried.

It is feared that North Central London (NCL) will start hacking away at the Whittington’s vital emergency services before the health authority is itself axed under Conservative Andrew Lansley’s NHS reforms.

DWHC chairwoman Shirley Franklin said: “We are talking about disgusting, horrible and frightening changes to the NHS. We stand against cuts, privatisation, closures and any cuts to the mental health service.

The battle to save the Whittington appeared to have been won in May when Mr Lansley was filmed for the New Journal’s website saying “I can say the Whittington A&E department, if I am secretary of state, will be saved.”

Now he has failed to offer any assurances – but it is not just “liar Lansley” who is facing the fury of campaigners.

Ms Franklin said: “Shadow secretary Andy Burnham has also done a U-turn. 

“Only after we had invited Lansley to our pre-election rally did he change his mind about the potential closure of our A&E.

“And Lib Dem equalities minister Lynne Featherstone helped to lead our campaign, and claimed to have saved the Whittington in her election propaganda. Now she will not reply to our emails. We need renewed support to stop the destruction of the NHS.”

Board minutes suggesting they had spiked plans for full closure of the Whittington A&E were subsequently published.

Since winning the election, Mr Lansley stopped NCL’s review and announced plans to devolve NHS spending decisions to GPs.

And now health bosses have said they will resurrect their north London hospital closure plans if GP leaders agree.

They will be looking to make even bigger savings than NCL was anticipating before the election – placing the A&E, maternity unit and crucial mental health services back under threat.

Many believe private firms will snap-up major NHS contracts, with commissioners looking for cheaper options at every step.

Speaking outside the Department of Health, Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn said: “Where is the democratic accountability in all of this? We are talking about large-scale privatisation – we need to let them know this is our NHS, and it is not for sale.”

Mr Corbyn flagged up the Whittington threat in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on Monday, where he called for ministers to stop “messing with the NHS” and “return it to democratic accountability”.

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