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‘Future of hospital could be in doubt’ - Whittington chiefs

Dr Yi Mien Koh, chief executive of the Whittington Hospital Dr Yi Mien Koh, chief executive of the Whittington Hospital

Thursday, February 27, 2014
11:33 AM

Hospital bosses warned that the future of the Whittington could be in doubt when they were summoned to the town hall to answer accusations of a crisis.

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Yi Mien Koh and Steve Hitchins, chief executive and chairman respectively, also claimed the Magdala Avenue hospital’s transformation to a Foundation Trust (FT) would take time “to avoid another Mid-Staffs”.

The pair had been called 
before an Islington Council Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday to defend themselves against claims of a crisis at the hospital following a turbulent year of protests – including the 5,000 strong march opposing a sell-off of the estate in Archway.

Rigorous

Mr Hitchins said: “Becoming a FT is a difficult process. We have to wait for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection, which will be rigorous. It’s in our hands and we can do it if we pull our fingers out. But things will take time because the Government won’t want to approve an FT that goes the way of Mid-Staffs.

“We have one more chance to get this right.

‘‘If we get it wrong this time, the loss of morale in the hospital will leave us very vulnerable to not having an independent future.”

A spokesman for the Trust said all CQC inspections have to be completed by December 2015.

Cllr Martin Klute, chair of the sparsely attended committee meeting, wanted Dr Koh to “directly respond” to allegations of senior staff “leaving a sinking ship” and a £40million budget deficit reported in some media outlets – charges the chief executive hotly denied.

She said: “A senior staff member left when she was promoted to become the number two nurse in London – it was a great opportunity and we are all happy for her.

“The reports of a £40million deficit are completely untrue.

“We have to make estimated savings of £15million – which is typical for an organisation like us and less than most councils – and we are forecast to break even this year.

“None of these claims resonates with me and those making them can’t back them up.”

Mr Hitchins also promised to reform the Trust’s future budgets to make them more transparent – in the manner of local authority finances.

He told the committee that councillors from Islington and Haringey had attended the last Whittington board meeting, at his request.

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