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Whittington Hospital accused of ‘silencing’ staff over sell-off and ward closure plans

PUBLISHED: 16:35 06 February 2013 | UPDATED: 18:07 06 February 2013

(From left)  Shirley Franklin of Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, MP for Holborn and St Pancras Frank Dobson, firefighter Dan Giblin and Candy Udwin of Camden Keep Our NHS Public at the Camden NHS meeting. Picture: Dieter Perry

(From left) Shirley Franklin of Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, MP for Holborn and St Pancras Frank Dobson, firefighter Dan Giblin and Candy Udwin of Camden Keep Our NHS Public at the Camden NHS meeting. Picture: Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

Campaigners have claimed staff at The Whittington are being “terrorised” by senior management, who have scared them off joining the campaign to save the hospital.

As the battle to stop nearly half the hospital site from being sold, wards closed and a cap on births gathers pace, a meeting to discuss defending the NHS in Camden was held at Camden Town Hall on Monday (February 4).

The meeting was led by Frank Dobson, MP for Holborn and St Pancras; Shirley Franklin, chairman of Defend The Whittington Hospital Coalition and Candy Udwin of Camden Keep Our NHS Public (KONP).

Speaking about staff at the hospital, in Magdala Avenue, Highgate, Ms Franklin said: “We have links with them, but they are being terrorised in the hospital.

“They were told not to come to our demo, they think they will get sacked. It’s about confidence, people need to feel confident.”

She added: “We need to work with trade unions and community groups and workers at the hospital to stop the sell-off.

“Workers are essential, but management at the unit are threatening them if they have anything to do with this. People are feeling insecure about using their emails and talking to us.”

But The Whittington said it had robust policies in place to allow staff to raise concerns.

Speaking after the meeting, a spokesman said: “We have a culture of openness and honesty and we encourage staff to raise any issues they have.

“In addition we have a robust whistle-blowing policy which protects any staff member who raises a concern. As an organisation we take bullying and harassment extremely seriously.”

The board of Whittington Health, the organisation that runs the hospital, has agreed plans to sell the north half of the hospital site and nurses accommodation, to close three wards, to cap births at 4,000 a year and cut the number of hospital beds.

The plan is known as the Estates Strategy and hospital chiefs say it is part of a wider drive to move care into the community.

Labour MP Mr Dobson, who has spoken out against the plans, said he was worried that the land might be used for a private hospital, which would “muscle out our health services”, as it already has health buildings on it.

He said: “This government is determined to break up the NHS and basically privatise it so it’s all franchised out.

“They are using the excuse of the banking crisis to do whatever they want to and they have destroyed the Welfare State.”

He added: “We need to keep hammering away. We need to urge people to join us in to supporting The Whittington campaign.”

A petition set up by Defend The Whittington Hospital Coalition to save the hospital now has more than 1,000 signatures and volunteers will be assembling outside Sainsbury’s, in Camden Town, on Saturday morning, to gather more names.

The first public meeting to discuss opposing the Whittington sell-off will be held in the Archway Methodist Hall, Archway Close, on Tuesday, February 12 at 7.30pm. The chief executive of Whittington Health is expected to attend.

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