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Whittington beds and sell-off plan axed as figures emerge showing hundreds of patients are discharged in the middle of the night

PUBLISHED: 07:00 11 July 2013 | UPDATED: 10:10 11 July 2013

Greg Battle, medical director for integrated care, Chief executive Yi Mien Koh, and Martin Kuper, executive medical director (L-R), announced dramatic changes this morning

Greg Battle, medical director for integrated care, Chief executive Yi Mien Koh, and Martin Kuper, executive medical director (L-R), announced dramatic changes this morning

Archant

Whittington chiefs this week scrapped plans to axe scores of beds amid emerging figures which show hundreds of patients have been discharged in the middle of the night – including pensioners aged up to 99 – during times of high demand.

The dramatic U-turn over cuts to about 70 beds, 570 staff and the sell-off of £17 million-worth of buildings came on Tuesday – ending fears of a dramatic reduction in services which saw thousands march the streets in protest in March.

On Tuesday hospital bosses announced the “major” shift after a three-month listening exercise.

There are now “no plans to close beds” while no “significant reduction” will be made to staff numbers.

The overhaul will also see the Grade II-listed Jenner building and newly built Whittington Education Centre – originally earmarked for sell-off – retained.

However, the derelict Waterlow building – unused for ten years – looks set to be offered to developers along with the 70-room nurses’ accommodation block.

Campaigners reacted with caution to the sell-off U-turn this week, raising concerns about plans to move care off-site and into patients’ homes by using online video sites such as Skype and other “tele-health” tools.

Shirley Franklin, leader of the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, said: “I am happy that we have pushed them into re-thinking their plans.

“We also welcome the fact that we have stopped the sell-off of some of the family silver.

“We are also happy about the decision not to reduce the number of beds, but sceptical about the claim there will be no ‘significant’ reductions.

“But the clinical approach driving this – about health care being moved into the community and out of hospital – is most worrying.

“I think it is dreadful they are going that way, to expect people to use things such as Skype to manage patient aftercare. We are concerned it is going to go too far that way.

“We want community care to be improved but not at the expense of sending people home early or people driven out to be sent home.”

Islington MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry welcomed the strategy shift as “good progress” and “movement in the right direction”, but called for caution going forward.

The new five-year plan also means the number of births will no longer be capped at 4,000.

Figures obtained by the Gazette suggest at least 922 patients – nearly six a week – were discharged between the anti-social hours of 11pm and 6am over the last three years – about a third of which were pensioners.

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