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HOSPITAL SELL-OFF: Fury of Famous Five MPs kept in the dark over decision to dismantle Whittington Hospital

Fury of Famous Five MPs + Whittington Hospital chief executive Dr Yi Mien Koh

From top left, angry MPs Frank Dobson, Jeremy Corbyn, Emily Thornberry, David Lammy and Lynne Featherstone. Also pictured (bottom right) Whittington Hospital chief executive Dr Yi Mien Koh

The New Journal and Islington Tribune battle bus which led the march in 2010 to

The Islington Tribune and Camden New Journal battle bus which led the march in 2010 to save Whittington A&E department

Published: 1 February, 2013
by TOM FOOT

FIVE north London MPs are “reeling in shock” after reading in the Tribune about a boardroom decision to ‘dismantle’ the Whitt­ington Hospital.

They were stunned not to have been briefed or invited to talks about changes that will transform the face of the much-cherished hospital.

Instead, their first source of information was our front-page exclusive last week, which detailed how the north half of the hospital site in Highgate is for sale, and the number of births in the maternity unit is to be capped each year.

This week, it emerged that  570 jobs – including those of 200 nurses – will be axed. Half of the hospital’s 354 beds are to be cut.

Despite these radical changes – nodded through at a board meeting last Wednesday – Islington MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry had not been asked for his views, nor had fellow MPs Frank Dobson, Lynne Featherstone and David Lammy, whose constituencies surround the hospital.

The politicians responded by hauling Whittington chief executive Dr Yi Mien Koh into the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Amazingly, despite meeting Whittington chiefs last month, the MPs had not been informed about the NHS trust’s “Estate’s Strategy”, approved last week in five minutes without public scrutiny.

The Tribune and its sister newspaper, Camden New Journal, helped organise a march three years ago in defence of the hospital’s then-threatened accident and emergency department and have been keeping a careful watch on other attempts to axe services.

Other media outlets seized on our revelations last week, immediately recognising the importance to local people and the distress the plans – until that point secret –were causing. MPs and campaigners appeared on BBC and ITV news items this week.

Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry, a former shadow health minister, said of Tuesday’s Commons meeting with hospital chiefs: “Obviously, we gave them the hairdryer treatment. We were furious that we met them recently and there was no hint of this at all.

“We understand the principle of working in the community – but that has to be in a context of improving care.”

She said she had been told by the chief executive there would be 570 job losses – an increase on last week’s estimated figure in board papers of 350 – and that half of the hospital’s beds would be lost.

She added: “We want to work with the Whittington and help them, but to be completely blindsided by this, to learn in your newspaper of the closure and sell-off is ridiculous. They apologised for that and said they realised they had made a mistake.”

David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham and a former higher education minister, told the Tribune: “I, alongside my colleagues, expressed dismay that we had not been consulted and had absolutely no knowledge of plans as extensive as these proposed by the Whittington until last week.

“We are still in a state of shock. Today [Tuesday] was the first time these plans had been explained to us by the hospital. The next thing must be to explain to the public.” He described the plan as a “dramatic change” and said dismantling the hospital would be letting down his own “birth­right”.

Mr Lammy, who was born in the hospital, added that he would happily fulfill his pledge, made in 2010 after the A&E was saved, that if the threat re-emerged “there will be a black man chained to the railings outside”.

Mr Dobson said the hospital plans smacked of “the usual management gobbledygook”. He wondered if the hospital land – with an estimated value of £17million – would be sold off to private healthcare providers.

The MP said: “They appear not to have told MPs, they didn’t tell patients, they didn’t tell staff.”

Mr Corbyn also entered the fray, tabling an Early Day Motion in Parliament that says: “This House expresses concern about the proposed sale of large portions of the Whittington Hospital and the potential loss of staff and beds as part of a strategy announcement reported in the local media… [and] deplores the complete lack of consultation with elected representatives, the public and hospital staff.”

A MAJOR public meeting will be held by Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition on February 12  at 7.30pm in Archway Methodist Hall – the scene of campaign meetings against the A&E closure in 2010. 
More details at www.dwhc.org.uk.

>> 570 jobs lost as care switches from wards to health centres (click here)

>> Hospital’s family silver will be lost in disgusting sell-off (click here)


 

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