The Independent London Newspaper


HEALTH: Group that played central role in preventing Whittington A&E closure release NHS ‘manifesto’

The 2010 protest that saved the Whittington’s A&E from closure. Below: Shirley Franklin

Published: 20 March, 2015

CAMPAIGNERS who twice stopped major cutbacks at the Whittington Hospital have unveiled their “Manifesto for Health” ahead of an election hustings next week.

Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition (DWHC) was set up to stop the A&E closure before the last general election in 2010.

Five years on they are still very much in the thick of it with monthly meetings, boardroom protests and leafleting most Saturdays in Holloway Road.

Politicians hoping to secure seats in the House of Commons in May will be asked their views on the DWHC manifesto at a public debate in Islington Town Hall on Monday.

The manifesto number one point is for “a fully functioning local district hospital” to be retained with a “comprehensive A&E”. There should be “no cuts to beds, staff and buildings” and services should be run by the NHS and not private companies, the manifesto said.

All PFI debts are cancelled and paid off and the Health and Social Care Act – legislation brought in by Andrew Lansley shortly before he was replaced as health secretary – should be repealed, it added.

DWHC chairwoman Shirley Franklin said: “This Coalition government has seriously damaged our NHS. Privatisation and cuts mean inadequate funding for health, with a crisis in beds and disgracefully heavy workloads for staff, who are being inadequately paid.

“That is why we have written a Manifesto for Health to which we would like everyone to sign up to and are holding a Hustings for Health where parliamentary candidates in Haringey and Islington can address these important issues.”

The DWHC is holding a hustings in Islington Town Hall, Upper Street, from 7.15pm. 

Islington South Conservative parliamentary candidate Dr Mark Lim, Green councillor Caroline Russell, Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate for Tottenham Jenny Sutton, former Islington Council leader Catherine West, who is Labour’s candidate for the Hornsey and Wood Green parliamentary constituency, will also be on the panel on Monday. Lib Dem minister and Hornsey and Wood Green parliamentary candidate Lynne Featherstone has declined to attend, as has Islington South Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Terry Stacey.

It is five years since the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition launched its furious campaign to stop the closure of the A&E. After months of campaigning and a massive people power protest outside the Whittington in March 2010, Labour health secretary Andy Burnham, shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley and the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg united in condemnation of the proposals. 

The hat-trick of politicians’ promises – secured shortly before the general election – meant whichever party was elected the NHS managers’ plan would be scrapped. However with Whittington A&E made untouchable, managers instead created a plan to shut the A&E in Chase Farm Hospital, Barnet, and the service was shut in December 2013.

Ms Franklin said: “We petitioned on the streets, we held public meetings, a day of action and we demonstrated. And we won. We saved all those departments, and probably our hospital. Now the maternity department is expanding and the others are busier than ever.” 

We were needed again in 2013 when, under duress from the impact of the Health and Social Care Act and inadequate NHS funding, the board disgracefully decided to slash the numbers of beds and staff, and sell off nearly half the buildings. And we stopped them again.”

She added: “It was awful when Chase Farm went down. None of us felt good about it. But we did try to help.”

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