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‘Stop the sell-off’: More than 500 people at meeting to save the Whittington Hospital

PUBLISHED: 16:22 13 February 2013 | UPDATED: 12:37 14 February 2013

Stop the sell-off: Shirley Franklin (centre) of Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, flanked by Joe Liddane (left), chairman of Whittington Health, and MP Jeremy Corbyn (right). Picture: Polly Hancock

Stop the sell-off: Shirley Franklin (centre) of Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, flanked by Joe Liddane (left), chairman of Whittington Health, and MP Jeremy Corbyn (right). Picture: Polly Hancock

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The woman spearheading the fight to stop The Whittington sell-off accused health bosses of putting two fingers up to the community.

The public meeting about plans to sell off almost half of the Whittington Hospital was attended by 500 people. Picture: Polly HancockThe public meeting about plans to sell off almost half of the Whittington Hospital was attended by 500 people. Picture: Polly Hancock

To cheers from the 500 protesters who attended a public meeting on Tuesday, Shirley Franklin, who chaired the proceedings, ended the meeting with the words: “You stuck your two fingers up at us. We are your Whittington community and you gave us absolutely zilch information and zilch respect and that’s why we’re angry.

“Don’t give us, ‘we don’t need hospital beds’ It’s disgusting, it’s insulting and we’re not stupid.”

Her outbust came as the hospital chairman Joe Liddane told the Ham&High that the board has no intention of changing tack or slowing down, despite the pleas. Instead, he promised more meetings to explain the move and added: “They are complex ideas but we think when people understand why we are doing it, they will be more amenable.”

Campaigners and MPs delivered a series of passionate speeches as more than 500 people crammed into the Archway Methodist Church, in Archway, which had to open overspill rooms to accommodate the large crowd.

During the meeting, which was called by the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, Mr Liddane apologised to the room for “mishandling the communication” of the plans. He said: “This has led a number of people to conclude that we’ve been secretive – and this hurts us, this pains us. It’s not correct. We publish all our plans on the website and all board meetings are held in public.”

Hospital bosses intend to sell off almost half of the site in a bid to raise around £17million and are championing ‘care in the community’ because beds will be lost through the plans.

Former health secretary, MP for Holborn and St Pancras Frank Dobson, said: “So what are we going to get? A thieving, rotten, ratbag American health corporation, moving in and building a flash hospital next to the Whittington and then trying to draw on the Whittington?”

He added: “The fact that the Whittington has a slightly higher ratio of nurses to patients than national rates and some of them are pretty well paid, might make some contribution to the fact that it is the safest hospital in the land.

“The idea of reducing their numbers is absolutely crackers.”

Tottenham MP David Lammy firmly rebutted claims that care at home would be better for patients, saying that moving mental health care services into the community had “devastating effects” in his constituency, and claimed losing such a large number of beds and capping births could lead to the eventual demise of the hospital.

One mother, sitting with her seven-year-old son, said that if she had to travel further from her home to maternity services, she would not have survived the premature birth of her third child.

A show of hands in the room left only three in favour of the sell off.

Best-selling author and political commentator Owen Jones has also thrown his weight behind the campaign and said: “You’ve picked the wrong community to have a fight with!”

A protest march from Highbury Corner to the Whittington in Magdala Avenue, Archway – which is hoped to bring out thousands of people – is planned for March 16.

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