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Whittington Health row: Protester threatens ‘massive campaign’ if hospital does deal with Grenfell-linked firm

PUBLISHED: 17:44 02 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:44 02 November 2017

Defend the Whittington Hospital protesters gather outside the Whittington Hospital yesterday ahead of a board meeting at the hospital. Picture: Polly Hancock

Defend the Whittington Hospital protesters gather outside the Whittington Hospital yesterday ahead of a board meeting at the hospital. Picture: Polly Hancock

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A campaign leader has vowed to ramp up resistance after the Trust that runs the Whittington Hospital ignored calls to reverse a development deal with a company linked to Grenfell Tower contractor Rydon.

Defend the Whittington Hospital protesters hold a 'Keep Rydon Out of the Whittington Hospital' banner above the heads of Steve Hitchins (chairman) and Siobhan Harrington (chief executive) as they raise their concerns at a board meeting. Picture: Polly HancockDefend the Whittington Hospital protesters hold a 'Keep Rydon Out of the Whittington Hospital' banner above the heads of Steve Hitchins (chairman) and Siobhan Harrington (chief executive) as they raise their concerns at a board meeting. Picture: Polly Hancock

Shirley Franklin – speaking after Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition (DWHC) members lobbied a meeting of the trust’s board yesterday – said: “We will have a massive campaign if they go ahead with this deal. We demand they withdraw this contract.”

Campaigners are furious at a decision to hand Ryhurst a contract to oversee building improvement work. Its parent firm Rydon was behind a 2016 refurb of the Kensington tower where at least 70 people died in a fire in June.

On Wednesday, about 30 people attended a rally outside the hospital – where Ms Franklin attacked Rydon’s workmanship on Grenfell Tower as “shoddy” and asked what would happen to the deal if the inquiry found it had contributed to the fire.

Finsbury Park Labour councillor Gary Heather told campaigners he had written to Islington’s leader Cllr Richard Watts calling for an “urgent” discussion of the decision.

Chief executive Siobhan Harrington speaks at the board meeting. Picture: Polly HancockChief executive Siobhan Harrington speaks at the board meeting. Picture: Polly Hancock

“What we’re against is a process where a private company comes in and fleeces the community and takes away our health services,” Cllr Heather said, before claiming Ryhurst wouldn’t just oversee estates but could try to reduce costs by cutting staff. Rydon and Ryhurst declined to comment.

In the meeting Ms Franklin attacked trust bosses for making a decision she called “a total insult” to the community.

But trust chiefs hit back saying if the plans didn’t go ahead, “essential” building work would be delayed with financial fines resulting from a contract break. Asked about the possibility of Rydon’s Grenfell Tower work being blamed for the fatal blaze, board members countered they had carried out all necessary checks required.

Ms Franklin said: “They were determined not to shift. It was shocking. But we were quite a challenge to them.”

Ms Harrington said afterwards: “We want people to have the opportunity to tell us what they want from our services and the buildings in which they are located. We will be letting people know how they can be involved over the coming months.

“The trust board invited DWHC to its meeting to have the opportunity to hear their concerns. The board responded with facts to the concerns raised. I understand other people may share the concerns raised so it is important the wider community has the opportunity to hear the responses to the questions. We will be publishing these on the trust’s website.”

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