Whittington march: celebrities including Tom Conti, Brooke Kinsella and Terry Jones back march
- Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images
So it is time to step forward and join the thousands of protesters who will be marching from noon on Saturday to save the hospital from cutbacks – and the Gazette’s own Hands Off Our Whittington double decker bus will also be there.
Only Fools and Horses actor Roger Lloyd-Pack and social commentator Owen Jones will join the army of ordinary people – many of whom have used the Whittington all their lives – for the walk from Highbury Corner to the doors of the hospital.
Actors Tom Conti and Brooke Kinsella, comics Les Dennis and Terry Jones, singer Ms Dynamite and playwright Sir David Hare are also backing the campaign to stop the proposed cuts to the hospital in Magdala Avenue, Archway.
Mr Lloyd-Pack, 69, who used the hospital when he broke his ankle and when he injured his head falling off his bicycle, said: “The Whittington is a vital resource. I am absolutely shocked that they are even considering selling off part of it. It’s a deplorable state of affairs.”
The Whittington Hospital is planning to care for more elderly and chronically ill people at home and at community clinics – claiming this is the future of the NHS. Hospital chiefs think they can afford to scrap 570 jobs and 60 beds.
The board says the hospital needs to be more efficient as, due to government cutbacks and rising drug and treatment costs, it must cut five per cent of its £270million budget every year.
Hospital bosses also want to sell off almost a third of the site – a section they say is underused and deteriorating – to generate £17million, money that will be used to upgrade the maternity ward, create a new day treatment unit and build a new education centre.
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Campaigners are angry at the prospect of staff and bed cuts, fear that patients will be discharged before they are ready and that the hospital is thinking of selling the ‘‘family silver’’ to raise cash.
Niomi McLean-Daley, 31, aka Ms Dynamite, who grew up in Archway, and whose brothers and sisters have all used the Whittington, said: “I understand times are tough financially, but health is the last place we should ever be looking at making cuts. This is people’s lives we are talking about. It’s sad, it’s infuriating and it’s frustrating.”
Brooke Kinsella, 29, whose brother Ben Kinsella was murdered in 2008, said: “It’s where Ben died and staff tried their hardest to save him. We’re grateful for the work they did. It’s a really sad place to think about, but I know they do a really good job.”
Tom Conti, 71, said: “Any reduction in public service is tragic. It would be an element of care we could lose.”
Terry Jones, 71, said: “I think it’s disgraceful. The NHS is one of our great achievements and was celebrated at the Olympics. It’s just the government committing murder.”
Les Dennis, recently treated at the Whittington for norovirus, said: “At this time when there is so much illness around, it’s very important we hold on to health services as much as we can.”
Sir David Hare said: “This country can well afford a universal health service with local access for local people. It’s why we pay tax.”
The Whittington’s plans have been drawn up as part of its bid to become a foundation trust – an independently-run organisation akin to a private business.