Whittington hospital campaigners in new fight

Campaigners who battled to save the accident and emergency ward at the Whittington Hospital have vowed they will fight the latest plans for major upheaval.

The Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition (DWHC), which spearheaded the campaign to protect the A&E last year, has launched a petition against the hospital’s bid to become a foundation trust, under the banner Hands Off Our Hospital.

The group says the move would jeopardise the Whittington, in Magdala Avenue, Archway, by taking it away from central government control.

Shirley Franklin, chairwoman of the DWHC, said: “It would take it out of the main system, isolating it from the NHS and putting it at serious risk of privatisation. It puts everything at risk again.”

The Whittington has started a consultation on its plans. Supporters say the move would give it greater control over spending and make it more accountable to the community – and that the government’s controversial Health and Social Care Bill leaves no other option. The government is urging all hospitals to become foundations by 2014.

Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington Council’s health chief, said: “There’s no other option. If hospitals don’t become foundation trusts, they will be taken over by other hospitals.”

But the DWHC says health bosses are “jumping the gun” by pushing for the change before the bill has even got through the House of Lords.

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Ms Franklin added: “The bill has not gone through yet, so why are they doing all this already? They should wait and see.”

The Whittington must show it is a high-performing hospital to win foundation status. It would be run more like a business, and be accountable to a committee called the council of governors, made up of residents, patients and staff.

Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, said: “All hospitals are forced into becoming foundation trusts by the past and future legislation. I’m not in favour of it – but the legislation squeezes everybody into it. It’s a degree of separation and it worries me that it could lead to a large degree of privatisation.”

The consultation is available at www.whittington.nhs.uk/FTquestionnaire. The DWHC is hosting a public meeting at Archway Methodist Hall in Archway Close, Archway, at 7.30pm on Tuesday.