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First Whittington Hospital board meeting since sell off approved disrupted by angry campaigners

PUBLISHED: 17:36 28 February 2013 | UPDATED: 17:36 28 February 2013

The Whittington Hospital

The Whittington Hospital

Archant

The Whittington Hospital’s board was faced with another display of anger and emotion yesterday as it convened for the first time since the sell off was approved – and was urged to scrap the plans.

History repeats itself? Demonstrations march to save the Whittington Hospital's A&E department in 2010. Picture: Polly HancockHistory repeats itself? Demonstrations march to save the Whittington Hospital's A&E department in 2010. Picture: Polly Hancock

Around 80 campaigners made their fierce opposition known at the first board meeting since the highly controversial proposals – which will see buildings, beds and staff lost – were rubber-stamped in a shock move last month.

Board members struggled to carry out their business as they were repeatedly interrupted with questions and outbursts from the angered observers, with a favoured chant being: “You say sell off, we say sell out!”

Protesters had gathered outside the hospital in Magdala Avenue, Archway, before the meeting, which had to be moved into a staff cafe to accommodate everyone.

Shirley Franklin, chairman of the Save the Whittington Hospital coalition, gave a stirring speech before the meeting got underway, saying: “It’s brilliant that so many people have come to the board meeting. Perhaps board members will note how many people are here. This is symbolic of the anger and anxiety and reaction to what happened at the last board meeting.

“At the moment beds are over occupied. There have been red alerts. If you start closing beds down, there will be a bed crisis across London. It’s insulting when you tell us you don’t need hospital beds any more.

“The Whittington community are totally appalled, this is not a healthy option and this is not in our health interests.

“We know you’re doing it for the foundation trust status. We ask you now to withdraw the sell off plans. That is our request. Stop the sell off.”

The members of the board struggled to get on with business after Ms Franklin’s contribution, many looking decidedly uncomfortable as campaigners repeatedly thwarted their efforts.

Robert Aitken, deputy chairman of Whittington Health, who was chairing in the absence of Joe Liddane, pleaded for quiet and repeatedly insisted it was not a public meeting, but rather a meeting held in public.

He told those present that the hospital’s quest for foundation trust status would be delayed, but refused to directly respond to Ms Franklin’s demands for the scrapping of the “estates strategy”, as the controversial proposals are known.

He said: “There’s going to be a review and a pause for a few months, that’s the opportunity for us to reconsider and review our position.”

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