Defend Whittington Hospital - 12 Feb 2013

Five hundred people attended a Stop the Sell-off meeting chaired by Jeremy Corbyn MP on Tuesday 12 February at Archway Methodist Church in Islington called by the Defend Whittington Hospital Campaign. Two weeks ago the Whittington Management Board announced that buildings would be sold, staff accommodation demolished, 570 jobs in nursing and administration would go, beds to be reduced from 330 to 177 and birth services to be capped at 4,000 per year.

The Director of the Board (£170,000 per annum) apologised for poor communication of these plans. He said the proposals were based on the belief that improvements in medical care depend on small local health care clinics, home support and care in the community.

Contributions and questions from the public showed that there is deep anger about the proposals based on the experience of the poor services that already exist outside of the Whittington Hospital itself which is the ‘safest’ hospital in England for mortality rates. This is because the patient /nurse ratio is good. ‘A Mid Staffs Hospital tragedy will occur if the proposed changes are made’ said one contributor to much clapping and support.

Labour MPs Frank Dobson, Emily Thornberry and David Lammy joined Catherine West, Leader of Islington Council on the platform. They spoke about their love of Whittington Hospital – but that was all they had to say. These Labour MPs offer no plans or strategies for defending public services. They hope to be lifted up on the shoulders of popular anger in order to return the Labour Party to government. The Whittington Management proposals are intended to prepare for Foundation Trust Hospital Status. This, like the Public/Private Finance Initiative was a major policy of the last Labour Government and has been disastrous for the NHS.

A speaker from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! pointed out that NHS services can only be defended if there is real opposition to the management and financial structures endorsed under Labour. Foundation Trust status was the swamp that dragged Mid Staffs Hospital into disaster for patients and the PFI debt time bomb of South London Health Care Trust has threatened Lewisham Hospital with closure. We must stand by the slogans; Cancel the PFI debt – No to Foundation Trusts.