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‘Future of hospital could be in doubt’ - Whittington chiefs

Dr Yi Mien Koh, chief executive of the Whittington Hospital Dr Yi Mien Koh, chief executive of the Whittington Hospital

Friday, February 28, 2014
9:00 AM

Hospital bosses have warned that the future of the Whittington could be in doubt after they were summoned to the town hall to answer accusations that they are facing a crisis.

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Dr Yi Mien Koh and Steve Hitchins, chief executive and chairman of the hospital in Magdala Avenue, Archway, also claimed that transformation to a foundation trust would be slow “to avoid another Mid-Staffs”.

The pair had been called before an Islington Council scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday to defend themselves against allegations that the hospital is in crisis following a turbulent year of protests – including the 5,000-strong march opposing a sell-off of the estate in Archway.

Mr Hitchins said: “Becoming a foundation trust is a difficult process.

“We have to wait for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection, which will be rigorous.

“It’s in our hands and we can do it if we pull our fingers out.

“But things will take time because the government won’t want to approve a foundation trust that goes the way of Mid-Staffs.

“We have one more chance to get this right.

“If we get it wrong this time, the loss of morale in the hospital will leave us very vulnerable to not having an independent future.”

A spokesman for the trust said all CQC inspections have to be completed by December 2015.

Cllr Martin Klute, who chaired the sparsely-attended committee meeting, wanted Dr Koh to “directly respond” to allegations that senior staff were “leaving a sinking ship” and reports of a £40million budget deficit – charges the chief executive strongly denied.

She said: “A senior staff member left when she was promoted to become the number two nurse in London – it was a great opportunity and we are all happy for her.

“The reports of a £40million deficit are completely untrue.

“We have to make estimated savings of £15million – which is typical for an organisation like us and less than most councils – and we are forecast to break even this year.

“None of these claims resonate with me and those making them can’t back them up.”

Mr Hitchins also promised to reform the trust’s future budgets to make them more transparent, in the manner of local authority finances.

He told the committee that councillors from Haringey and Islington had attended the last Whittington board meeting, at his request.

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