Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition chairwoman Shirley Franklin: ‘They are getting rid of the family silver and they should not have to be doing this’
Published: 29 January, 2016
by TOM FOOT
THE Whittington has announced plans for a massive sale of its neighbourhood health centres to fund a revamp of its main hospital site and help plug its gaping deficit.
The cash-strapped Archway NHS Trust’s new “estates strategy” details a plan to “generate a reduction in the number of community premises from 20 to 8-9 sites”.
The buildings were transferred onto the Whittington’s books only five years ago.
Chief executive Simon Pleydell told the Tribune the changes would not trigger cuts to health services or job losses, but would pave the way for a 21st-century service.
Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition chairwoman Shirley Franklin said: “We’ve spoken with Simon and we’ve let him know that we are watching him on this.
“The changes do look like they will improve the quality of healthcare at the hospital – they are clinically led. But at the same time they are getting rid of the family silver and they should not have to be doing this. The underlying cause is the chronic underfunding of the NHS by the government and that is the important thing to remember.”
Ms Franklin was a key agitator along with the Tribune in the massive 2010 and 2013 demonstrations and protest marches against cuts to the Whittington’s A&E, job losses and land sales.
Whittington chief executive Simon Pleydell
According to the report, the Whittington owns the freehold to the Northern Medical Centre and the Medical Centre, both in Holloway Road, and the Hornsey Rise Health Centre and River Place Health Centre. It also has leases on several buildings including the Finsbury Health Centre, Michael Palin Centre, City Road medical centre and Highbury Grange medical centre. It is also committed to several other “Lift” PFI-style agreements in Haringey and Islington.
The Archway NHS Trust took over the running and ownership of several health and social care facilities when Islington Primary Care Trust was disbanded in 2011. It is now planning to “rationalise” that portfolio as part of the “delivery of informed estate efficiencies”.
Mr Pleydell described the property portfolio as a “Rubix Cube” that could be cleverly rotated to find a satisfying solution, adding that it would “obviously be easier” to sell the buildings that the Whittington owned the freehold to. He said one key idea being considered was to create a “health and well-being village” on the main hospital site, near the Highgate Hill entrance to the A&E.
The Whittington Village plan would see the towering Victorian nursing accommodation in the main sit, and the Grade II-listed Jenner building demolished and replaced with new facilities that could include a dementia care home and a privately run health practice.
Mr Pleydell said: “The best thing to do with that nurses’ block is to get a big ball on a chain and smash right through it. The important thing is that the principal objective of this strategy is to improve our estate and there will be a detailed consultation on this.”
Mr Pleydell said that NHS England – which rubber-stamps funding decisions for the health service nationally – was not releasing much funding for capital projects in an era of austerity.
It means that an advanced £10million proposal to redevelop the hospital’s maternity unit, which has been approved by Islington Council’s planning department, has been put on ice until funding can be raised.
The estate’s strategy says that the sale of community buildings would allow the Whittington to “secure the funding we need to improve services within the current challenging public capital funding environment”.
The fact that the Whittington is not yet a Foundation Trust means that a deal will have to be secured between the hospital and the lesser-known NHS authority about whether receipts from the sale of its buildings can fund its own schemes or be swallowed up by the Department of Health’s property firm PropCo.
The hospital has recently announced a planned deficit of £15million for this tax year.