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Protesters storm first Whittington Hospital meeting headed by controversial new chairman

PUBLISHED: 17:16 08 January 2014 | UPDATED: 19:21 08 January 2014

Steve Hitchins

Steve Hitchins

Archant

Campaigners turned out in force this afternoon to protest against the appointment of Steve Hitchins, Whittington Hospital’s new chairman.

Campaigners protest against the appointment of Steve Hitchins. Picture: Nigel Sutton. Campaigners protest against the appointment of Steve Hitchins. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Protesters stormed Mr Hitchins’ first meeting with the Whittington board and demanded to know more about his policy on cuts and his connections with private health companies.

Shirley Franklin, who organised the demonstration, claimed that his appointment was “absolutely disgraceful” in light of his alleged links with private health contractors.

She added that Mr Hitchins was driven by an agenda to make more cuts to services at the Whittington - and that hospital chiefs appointed him because of his reputation as a strong character capable of pushing through cuts.

She said: “He’s the right person for the job if you want to make cuts - that’s not putting patients first, that’s putting finance first.”

Confronting the Whittington health board during their first meeting, Ms Franklin told Mr Hitchins: “We’ve been told that there aren’t going to be cuts, and yet your papers for today’s board meeting talk about them.”

When asked to explain his plans for the hospital, Mr Hitchins told the protesters: “I don’t know, I’ve only been here a week.”

He also told protesters that we was not opposed to private health care, explaining: “No I’m not [opposed]. If people want to pay for it they can. I believe in a free society.”

He claimed that allegations over his connections with private healthcare companies had been exaggerated, before insisting that “this isn’t the place to go into that level of detail.”

When asked to explain who appointed him as chairman of the hospital, Mr Hitchins said: “There is absolutely no one in this room who was responsible for my appointment.”

Ms Franklin told the board this was “extraordinary, even more worrying than I thought it was.”

Protesters were also campaigning against the continued employment of Dr Yi Mien Koh, who one campaigner accused of having “poor people skills”.

Mr Hitchins invited protesters to meet him for a separate appointment to discuss their concerns.

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