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Concerns grow over future of Whittington’s A&E unit

16:32 05 December 2012

The Whittington Hospital

The Whittington Hospital

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Politicians are demanding assurances over the future of The Whittington Hospital’s A&E and maternity departments after its chairman admitted the trust was facing “significant financial challenges”.

Cllr Bernice Vanier, cabinet member for health at Haringey Council, has written a strongly-worded letter to Whittington chairman Joe Liddane asking for “assurances over the future provision of services at The Whittington”.

The Labour councillor wrote: “It is crucial that both the A&E and maternity departments continue as highly-regarded and much-valued local services.”

The government wants all NHS trusts to achieve self-governing “foundation trust” status by April 2014.

But it has now emerged that Whittington Health – the trust responsible for The Whittington Hospital in Magdala Avenue, Highgate and community services in Islington and Haringey – has decided to postpone its application for foundation trust status by three months.

The application was due to be submitted at the beginning of next year.

This was revealed in an email from Mr Liddane to staff and stakeholders, in which he wrote: “We are working in a difficult financial climate and have to ensure we have robust plans in place to demonstrate we are a financially sound organisation.”

Whittington Health needs to find £13.1million in savings throughout this financial year but, as of October, the trust was running behind by around £800,000.

Although Mr Liddane added that the postponement should have no significant impact on the “overall path” to foundation trust status, the letter has raised concerns that Whittington Health may find it difficult to meet the deadline.

Cllr Vanier is worried that if Whittington Health misses the deadline, it could have to “team up” with an existing foundation trust – which could jeopardise the Whittington’s own services, such as its A&E.

Cllr Vanier said: “My fear is that if they team up with someone else, it wouldn’t be the status quo, which is what I want. I am looking for reassurances that things won’t change.”

In 2010, The Whittington Hospital fought off plans that could have seen its A&E and maternity units closed.

Whittington Health chief executive Yi Mien Koh admitted to the Ham&High that if “Whittington Health’s foundation trust application was unsuccessful as a stand-alone organisation, an alternative route to foundation trust status would be required”. But Whittington Health has categorically denied that it is considering a merger with another hospital, insisting that it is on course to meet the April 2014 deadline.

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