Whittington Health chairman tells AGM: We are ‘not good enough’ at community engagement

The Whittington Hospital in Archway. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Archive

The Whittington Hospital in Archway. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Archive - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The annual general meeting of Whittington Health – the trust who run the Whittington Hospital in Archway – saw the board’s chairman Steve Hitchins admit community engagement is not up to scratch.

Mr Hitchins made the admission to a sparsely attended meeting featuring only a single member of the public.

He said: “I have to give the bad news. This is something we know we are not good enough at.

“We have to get better at engaging with the community.

“It’s not just users of the hospital, it’s the whole population.”

The sole member of the public, former Whittington governor Ron Jacob, asked, as the meeting concluded, why the meeting had not been better advertised. He said: “Can I ask how this meeting was advertised? I think there wasn’t enough promotion. I asked at the front desk and they didn’t know where the AGM was, there was nothing on the website.

Chief executive Siobhan Harrington said: “We have put up posters, and informed our stakeholder groups that this meeting was to take place.”

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Mr Hitchins added: “We have had apologies from several of our user groups, too.”

The meeting, which saw chief finance officer Steve Bloomer celebrate an improving financial position, did not see any member of the board reference the ongoing legal action being taken against Whittington Health by contractor Rydon.

Whittington Health revealed last month they were facing legal action from the Grenfell-linked firm after walking away from a controversial estates management contract with its subsidiary Ryhurst after pressure from politicians – including Jeremy Corbyn – and local campaigners.

Similar cases in the north west of England have seen Rydon seeking damages in the region of £2m.

Ms Harrington told this newspaper: “We remain sub judice so it is difficult to comment. “We can say we have taken extensive legal and risk assessment advice. We are fully aware of the level of financial risk.”

The trust’s report also revealed that despite improving financial performance and reporting a surplus of £5.4m, losses from the preceding two financial years mean it is still unable to break even, as is it’s statutory duty.

Mr Bloomer said: “I am very proud of our financial performance this year. “We have reported a surprlus of £5m more than expected, and are now in a good position to meet our break-even target in future.”