Whittington march: Islington MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry join 5,000-strong protest against hospital cuts
PUBLISHED: 16:29 16 March 2013 | UPDATED: 18:00 16 March 2013
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Bosses at the Whittington Hospital were given the clearest and loudest message yet that the community will not stand for its cuts plans as thousands lined up in front of its entrance in protest today.
As many as 5,000 people poured into Magdala Avenue, Archway, to stage a rally in front of the hospital, having braved the rain to march from Highbury Corner.
They were protesting against the hospital’s plans to sell off buildings, axe wards and beds and cut staffing levels.
Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn told the crowd: “This hospital was founded by people with a vision of health services free at point of use. The current board of this hospital seem to think there’s great merit in selling a quarter of the site for some money and making 500 staff redundancies in order to transfer care into the community.
“We are telling the board in no uncertain terms we are against the sell off. I have listened to their arguments at great length. Care in the community is not an alternative, it is an add on to a good and popular local hospital.
“This hospital is our greatest local resource.”
Mr Corbyn was joined as a speaker by actor Roger Lloyd-Pack, writer Owen Jones, who lives in Archway, Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry, Islington Council leader Cllr Catherine West, Tottenham MP David Lammy and several union activists.
Cllr West said: “We know in this area we have massive health inequalities, that’s why I’m here on behalf of Islington Council to lend my support to the doctors and nurses whose jobs are at risk.
“We are here to defend all these jobs and all these people.”
Speakers repeatedly referred to campaigns to save other hospitals across London and called for a general fightback to cuts to the NHS, not just the Whittington.
Angela Sinclair, 92, a veteran NHS campaigner from Highbury, who was on the Gazette’s bus for elderly and disabled people, told the gathered: “If the government can’t hear us, they must be mad.
“I have been a patient in this hospital several times and got treatment. I’m very grateful for the treatment. I don’t want them to sell it off to privateers. It’s our hospital they do not have the right to sell it.”
Journalist and left-wing commentator Mr Jones said: “There is one thing I have learned again today: they have messed with the wrong community.
“I am in absolutely no doubt whatsoever about the resolve of this community to defend the NHS.”
The rally ended with a burst of chanting led by Shirley Franklin, chairman of the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, who organised the protest. The crowds joined her in loudly insisting: “Our hospital is not for sale. Stop the sell off now!”