Islington councillor warns Save the Whittington campaigners risk ‘destroying’ hospital

Cllr Martin Klute

Cllr Martin Klute - Credit: Archant

A fresh row has erupted at the Whittington Hospital after a Labour councillor claimed that aggressive protesters are set to destroy the hospital.

Shirley Franklin leads Whittington Hospital Demo

Shirley Franklin leads Whittington Hospital Demo - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Martin Klute, chairman of Islington Council’s health scrutiny committee, sparked anger among campaigners after posting on Twitter about a monthly hospital meeting which saw board members walk out after being ambushed by protesters.

Whittington Hospital Demo

Whittington Hospital Demo - Credit: Nigel Sutton

About 30 opponents of the sell-off plans armed with megaphones and black cat masks stormed the meeting last Wednesday, hurling chants of “resign”.

The meeting was then held in private.

Mr Klute, who said the sell-off plans have some merit, took to the internet on Sunday to voice his concerns.

He posted: “Whittington protesters will destroy the hospital if they keep going. Is that what we want?”

When contacted by the Gazette he added: “I think the campaigners are being far too aggressive. I don’t support it. The open attack line is fraught with danger.

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“They are in danger of undermining the Whittington at a crucial time when the hospital is trying to gain foundation status.

“I don’t think the situation is as clear cut and straight forward as the protesters are making out.

“What they want to sell off has not been used for ten years. It’s a complex argument and the protesters need to be more focused on the issues.

“Invading the board meeting wearing masks and forcing the board out of the room – it’s just getting silly.

He added: “There is some merit in what they [the Whittington Hospital board] is trying to do.

“If the protesters attack the site too aggressively and unbalance the foundation trust status they will lose the hospital altogether.”

Chief operating officer of the hospital, Maria da Silva and director of people Margaret Boltwood, have announced they are to step down from their roles.

To achieve foundation status the NHS trust which runs the Whittington must hit the government’s April 2014 deadline, which include balancing the books.

But hospital chiefs have denied that the sell-off plan, which includes axing about 570 staff and up to a third of beds, is designed to boost the coffers.

Shirley Franklin, spokeswoman for the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition protest group, said: “I don’t know what he (Klute) is talking about. He wasn’t even at the meeting. If he has a problem why doesn’t he come along to one of our meetings and tell us? People are angry.”