Campaigners angry after Whittington Health announces deal with firm owned by Grenfell Tower contractor Rydon
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The trust that runs The Whittington Hospital has sparked outrage among campaigners after they discovered it had decided to team up with a firm linked to the Grenfell Tower fire.
Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition (DWHC) campaigners, who have twice won battles with Whittington Health bosses over cuts, are furious at the “secret” decision to award Ryhurst a contract to oversee building 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.
DWHC chair Shirley Franklin, who was in a meeting with Whittington chief exec Siobhan Harrington when the decision was revealed, said: “We want a state of the art hospital but we object to Rydon making money out of the hospital. The company is tainted. I’m so angry. We spent three years trying to get relationships between the hospital and the community on an even keel. This deal has blown that sky high. This is a smack in the face.”
But Ms Harrington defended Ryhurst’s appointment, saying the selection decision was made three days before the Grenfell Tower fire after a 12-month procurement.
She said hospital bosses paused the process after the fire with managers twice taking legal advice and talking to staff before deciding to push ahead.
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“Ryhurst had the most national experience and understood the local area and importance of our clinical strategy,” Ms Harrington said. Campaigners have called the deal a “sell-off”, but Ms Harrington countered: “It’s absolutely not a sell-off. It’s about developing our site so it’s fit for purpose. It’s important to us we keep our assets.”
Under the terms of the deal, lasting up to 10 years and yet to be signed off by NHS Improvement, Ryhurst fronts cash and helps appoint contractors, and will be repaid “what it puts in” when contracts end.
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The hospital website says the plans, referred to as a strategic estates partnership (SEP), differ from a private finance initiative (PFI) as assets won’t be transferred to the joint venture.
Ms Harrington added the Whittington would keep control over the choice of contractors.
Asked what Ryhurst gains from the deal, Ms Harrington said only that the firm would benefit from a “long-term relationship with an NHS trust”. Rydon and Ryhurst declined to comment.