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Whittington Health v Ryhurst: Campaigners protest before High Court trial over hospital estates contract begins

PUBLISHED: 17:42 09 December 2019 | UPDATED: 17:42 09 December 2019

Defend the Whittington Coalition campaigners protesting outside of the High Court. Picture: Sam Volpe

Defend the Whittington Coalition campaigners protesting outside of the High Court. Picture: Sam Volpe

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With the High Court trial between the Whittington Health NHS trust and contractor Ryhurst set to begin tomorrow, protesters from the Defend the Whittington Coalition held a vocal demo outside of the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand.

The hospital trust is being sued by the contractor - a subsidiary of Rydon who were involved in the refurbishment of the Grenfell Tower before the June 2017 fire.

It is now understood that Ryhurst are seeking upwards of £4m from the hospital trust.

At a protest attended by community activists and trade unionists, the DWC chair Shirley Franklin spoke of the community's resolve to defend its hospital. She said it was "appalling" that Ryhurst was suing the hospital, and particularly that it was for such a large sum.

Islington's Cllr Gary Heather (Lab, Finsbury Park) also spoke to the crowd. He said Ryhurst had continued to ignore the strength of public feeling to its involvement, He said: "There was massive public opinion against this and they knew that. They knew it and they took that risk up and now they're suing." Cllr Heather also slammed the work of private contractors across Islington who "do not provide the sort of service that we want".

Campaigner Diane Plampling added: "I'm just angry that Rydon are able to take the NHS to court."

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Professor Brian Hurwitz, who used to be a GP in Essex Road and is now an academic at King's College London also explained why he was attending the demo.

He said: "I don't want to see the Whittingtond depleted of resources just because they have got themselves mixed up with a contractor like Ryhurst. I don't want to seem them either forced to use Ryhurst or forced to pay."

Last June, amid pressure from DWC and local MPs Jeremy Corbyn, Catherine West and Emily Thornberry, NHS bosses abandoned their procurement process, declaring they no longer needed a partner.

Ryhurst, who had already been named preferred partner, have been pursuing compensation since then.

Shirley read a statement of support from Jeremy Corbyn. The leader of the opposition was one of the founders of the DWC a decade ago.

In his statement, he said: "The Whittington Hospital is one of our greatest local resources and I will always defend it. I applaud the DWC who have again come together to stand by it now." He added a Labour government would protect the NHS "as it was when it was founded: run for the people, free at the point of entry and never, ever, sold off".

At the protest Shirley also spoke of the community's defence of the hospital. She said: "We began exactly 10 years ago. We have stopped the removal of the intensive care, maternity and paediatric departments. Three years ago, we stopped them selling off half of our hospital."

Whittington Health have always defended their decision to pull out of the deal, while Ryhurst has said they are disappointed the case has reached court. The trial begins on Tuesday.

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