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Ham&High’s Hands Off Our Whittington hopsital campaign launches to resounding support

19:05 26 February 2013

History repeats itself? Demonstrators march to save the Whittington Hospital's A&E department in 2010. Picture: Polly Hancock

History repeats itself? Demonstrators march to save the Whittington Hospital's A&E department in 2010. Picture: Polly Hancock

Polly Hancock

The Ham&High has joined the community in its fight to stop ward closures and the sell-off of almost half the Whittington Hospital as we today launch our Hands off our Whittington campaign.

The Ham&High's Hands Off Our Whittington campaign has been supported by MPs, Camden Council and community campaignersThe Ham&High's Hands Off Our Whittington campaign has been supported by MPs, Camden Council and community campaigners

Last month the board of Whittington Health, the body that runs the hospital in Magdala Avenue, Highgate, approved plans to sell almost half the hospital site, which includes the loss of up to 100 beds, the closure of three wards and the loss of more than 300 jobs.

The plans also include capping births at 4,000 and selling off staff accommodation.

The shock news outraged campaigners across the communities that the Whittington serves in Haringey, Camden and Islington.

The Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, which successfully spearheaded a campaign to save the hospital’s Accident & Emergency department in 2010, began its fight against the board’s proposals with a public meeting attended by more than 500 people last week.

Shirley Franklin from the Save the Whittington Hospital campaign at a public meeting. Picture: Polly HancockShirley Franklin from the Save the Whittington Hospital campaign at a public meeting. Picture: Polly Hancock

The campaign’s goals are simple - to stop the sell-off and to prevent the loss of beds, staff and buildings at the Whittington.

Today the Ham&High, in partnership with sister publication the Islington Gazette, is backing the community fight to save our hospital services - and we have been supported by our local MPs, Camden Council and the campaigners who have fought to protect NHS services locally.

Shirley Franklin, who heads the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, said: “We are chuffed that the Ham&High has launched the Hands off our Whittington campaign.

“Local newspapers can play a vital role in helping local people to become aware of the issues and motivate them to join our activities to stop the decimation of our hospital.

“Our main demand is for the board to rescind their plans for the sell-off. We do not want to lose one bed, one job or one building at the Whittington.

“We welcome the much needed development of community health care, but not at the expense of our local hospital facilities.”

Holborn and St Pancras MP, Frank Dobson, who has been supporting the Whittington for 30 years and has fond memories of seeing one of his personal heroes, boxer Henry Cooper, at the hospital doors a month after he had fought Muhammad Ali, said: “I certainly support the campaign.

“I have been supporting the Whittington for the best part of 30 years, first in opposition when we promised that we would modernise the hospital and then when Labour did invest in the hospital and so I don’t want to see its services, its patients, or its staff damaged in anyway.”

Cllr Sarah Hayward, leader of Camden Council said: “We have a large community present that use the Whittington and it’s vital that its first class health services are maintained.

“We back local newspaper campaigns because they can bring people together to protest bad decisions.”

Candy Udwin, of Camden Keep Our NHS Public, which has also been involved in the coalition’s campaign, said: “We can’t let this happen to our hospital and people power can make a difference.

“Local people taking to the streets and making their voices heard and taking action is what is going to save our health services.”

On Saturday, March 16 more than 30,000 people are expected to join a massive protest march against the hospital chief’s plans.

Crowds will walk from Highbury Corner in Islington to the doors of the hospital in Magdala Avenue to publicly protest against the board’s plans - which have been branded “outrageous,” “unacceptable” and “disgusting” by people who rely on the hospital for care.

The leaders of the campaign to save the Whittington hope it will rival the march to save Lewisham Hospital’s A&E in February.

The Lewisham march was attended by more than 35,000 people and was even supported by Millwall football team, who pushed back a match so their supporters could attend the protest.

Campaigners have printed off 40,000 leaflets and 1,000 placards that will be on display as their supporters march through north London.

Next week (Thursday February 27) the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition will also be protesting outside the monthly board meeting which is attended by top hospital executives.

If you would like to get involved in the Hands off our Whittington campaign:

* Sign up for the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coaltion newsletter on their website, www.dwhc.org.uk

* Follow campaign updates on Twitter @dwhcoalition

* Email defendwhittington@googlemail.com

* Sign the online petition to stop the sell off at www.gopetition.com/petitions/stop-the-sell-off-and-cuts-at-the-whittington-hospital/sign.html

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