Whittington boss denies claims sell off plans were secret

Dr Yi Mien Koh, chief executive of Whittington Health

Dr Yi Mien Koh, chief executive of Whittington Health - Credit: Archant

The head of the Whittington Hospital has rebutted criticism that the board’s shock decision to sell-off almost half the hospital site has been veiled in secrecy.

Last week the board signed off plans to sell land on the north of the hospital site, but the hospital has been accused of failing to inform the community and local MPs.

In December the board held a meeting which was attended by Islington South MP Emily Thornberry and Tottenham MP David Lammy. Despite discussing the hospital’s future the question of the sale “did not come up” – but Dr Yi Mien Koh, the chief executive of Whittington Heath, told the Gazette this week she would have revealed the plans had she been asked about a sale.

She said the decision was part of an NHS-wide plan “to provide care in a different way”.

The chief executive, who was appointed in March 2011, said: “When you call it ‘ward closure’, I call it ‘shifting care into the community’.

“In any hospital today, the vast majority of people on the wards are old people and the patients and their carers tell us that acute, busy, highly intensive wards, are not the right place for old people.”

She added: “When they need intensive, acute care, this is the right place. But when they want to recover, we know that home is the best place.”

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But Dr Koh insisted there were “absolutely no plans to close” the Whittington’s Accident and Emergency department, which was last threatened with closure in 2010. “If anything we’re improving the environment of the A&E,” she said.

The board has already signed off the five-year Estates Strategy, but the next phase requires approval from the Department of Health and local stakeholders – such as councils and town planners.

The anticipated £17million raised from the sale will go towards services at the Whittington, Dr Koh confirmed.

She said the decision to sell the land would have gone ahead even if the hospital was not bidding to become a Foundation Trust.

“Caring for people in their own homes is a strategy we want to pursue,” said Dr Koh. “It’s the whole NHS not just the Whittington. We know from evidence what patients want – and it’s better for patients because it allows them to be independent, so we would do it regardless.”