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MPs, Islington Council and community show resounding support for the Gazette’s Hands Off Our Whittington campaign

09:13 21 February 2013

Hands off our Whittington logo

Hands off our Whittington logo

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The Islington Gazette has joined the community in its fight to stop ward closures and the sell-off of almost half the Whittington Hospital as we today launch our Hands Off Our Whittington campaign.

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

Last month the board of Whittington Health, the body that runs the hospital in Magdala Avenue, Archway, approved plans to sell almost half the hospital site, which includes the loss of more than 100 beds, the closure of three wards and the loss of more than 300 jobs.

The plans also include capping births at 4,000 and selling off staff accommodation.

The shock news outraged campaigners across the communities that the Whittington serves in Islington, Haringey and Camden.

The Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, which successfully spearheaded a campaign to save the hospital’s Accident & Emergency department in 2010, began its fight against the board’s proposals with a public meeting attended by more than 500 people last week.

The campaign’s goals are simple – to stop the sell-off and to prevent the loss of beds, staff and buildings at the Whittington.

Today the Gazette, in partnership with sister publication the Ham&High, is backing the community fight to save our hospital services – and we have been supported by our local MPs, Islington Council’s leaders and the campaigners who have fought to protect NHS services locally.

Shirley Franklin, who heads the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, said: “We are chuffed that the Gazette has launched the Hands off our Whittington campaign.

“Local newspapers can play a vital role in helping local people to become aware of the issues and motivate them to join our activities to stop the decimation of our hospital.

“Our main demand is for the board to rescind their plans for the sell-off. We do not want to lose one bed, one job or one building at the Whittington.

“We welcome the much needed development of community health care, but not at the expense of our local hospital facilities.”

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn, who recently tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons calling on the government to intervene, has also thrown his weight behind the campaign. He said: “The Whittington is our hospital and there for all of us, all the time. The board’s plans to sell a quarter of the site, cut the bed numbers and cut nurse and other staff posts are not acceptable. We have a rising population, huge health inequalities and obviously growing needs. I cannot see how these plans are any help in dealing with any of these issues. Once sold those buildings will never come back, the hospital will be downgraded and eventually cease to be the excellent district general hospital we know and love.

“We showed our support for the Whittington over the A&E Department; this is just as serious. I am pleased to see our local newspapers coming together with the whole community to support the Whittington Hospital.”

Cllr Catherine West, the leader of Labour-run Islington Council, said: “The Whittington Hospital is at the heart of our community. I welcome and support the Gazette’s campaign to stand up for our vital health care services and say hands off the Whittington.”

Cllr Terry Stacy, leader of the Lib Dem opposition group at the council, said: “The Whittington is essential to Islington’s health. We fought off the closure of the A&E unit and now we must fight this downgrading of our hospital. The selling off of sites and reduction of beds will be to the detriment of residents’ healthcare. It’s brilliant to see the Gazette leading the campaign to save the Whittington.”

On Saturday, March 16 more than 30,000 people are expected to join a massive protest march against the hospital chief’s plans.

Crowds will walk from Highbury Corner in Islington to the hospital in Magdala Avenue to publicly protest against the board’s plans – which have been branded “outrageous,” “unacceptable” and “disgusting” by people who rely on the hospital for care.

The leaders of the campaign to save the Whittington hope it will rival the march to save Lewisham Hospital’s A&E in February.

The Lewisham march was attended by more than 35,000 people and was even supported by Millwall football team, who pushed back a match so their supporters could attend the protest.

Campaigners have printed off 40,000 leaflets and 1,000 placards that will be on display as their supporters march through north London. Next week (Thursday February 27) the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition will also be protesting outside the monthly board meeting which is attended by top hospital executives.

To find out more or get involved with the campaign sign-up for the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coaltion newsletter on their website, www.dwhc.org.uk, or email defendwhittington@googlemail.com. You can also sign the online petition to stop the sell off at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/stop-the-sell-off-and-cuts-at-the-whittington-hospital/sign.html, also available on their website.

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