Campaigners launch battle to save Whittington

The Whittington Hospital

The Whittington Hospital - Credit: Archant

Campaigners have launched a battle to stop the sale of half of the Whittington Hospital and prevent ward closures labelled “disgraceful” by the community.

History repeats itself? Demonstrations march to save the Whittington Hospital's A&E department in 20

History repeats itself? Demonstrations march to save the Whittington Hospital's A&E department in 2010. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Polly Hancock

Last week, a shock decision from board members approved the sale of half the site in Magdala Avenue, Archway, in order to raise £17million as they move towards Foundation Trust status. To be considered the hospital needs to have made a saving of £4.8million by March of this year.

The five-year plan involves the sale of 8,375 square metres of land in the north of the hospital site – about the size of a football pitch.

It will result in the loss of dozens of beds for the elderly and new mothers, as well as the loss of accommodation for nurses. Wards which would be closed include the Betty Mansell, which provides health care to women; the Murray, which has 19 beds for post-natal care and Cloudesley and Meyrick which provides stroke rehabilitation for the elderly.

Births at the Whittington will also be capped at 4,000 a year in order to save money.

A petition started on Sunday by Defend the Whittington gathered more than 100 signatures in 24 hours and a protest march on the scale of that attended by thousands in 2010 which saved the A&E at the hospital is planned for March.

Chair of Defend the Whittington, Shirley Franklin, said the decision was an “absolute disgrace”. She continued: “We need to make our anger visible. It’s our hospital and there was no talking to the community. The way the decision was made looks dodgy. It feels like they have no respect for our NHS and no respect for social care.

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“This is serious because they are going to reduce the number of beds – which people need.”

The announcement came as a shock to many in the community including MP for Islington South and Finsbury, Emily Thornberry.

An urgent meeting was held on Monday with the hospital’s chief executive, MPs and councillors, and Whittington Health was also called to the House of Commons Tuesday afternoon to explain the proposals. Meanwhile, a public meeting is planned for February 12.

Cllr Catherine West, leader of Islington Council, said: “The Whittington Hospital is at the heart of our community and any reduction of vital maternity or health care services, with the loss of hundreds of nursing, medical and support staff jobs is unacceptable.

“Islington’s Health Scrutiny Committee has also called on Whittington Health to explain their proposals.

“Health inequality is at an unacceptable level in our borough. We are determined that health care services must improve and will stand together against any action that threatens this.”

In a statement, a spokesman for the Whittington Hospital said the plan was a response to the health trends of the local population.

The spokesman added: “More people are receiving health care in their homes, health centres and GP surgeries.”

“Over time the dependency on hospital wards will decrease, which will see some staff relocate to health centres.”

The Whittington said that over the next five years, they plan to invest £10million in maternity services, £2.9million on a new assessment centre for those who do no require hospital admission and £7million on an electronic patient record system.