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Whittington Hospital announces ‘complete re-think’ of controversial sell-off plans

PUBLISHED: 12:08 03 July 2013 | UPDATED: 12:08 03 July 2013

Campaigners protest against the Whittington Hospital sell-off plans at last week's board meeting. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Campaigners protest against the Whittington Hospital sell-off plans at last week's board meeting. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Staunchly opposed plans to sell-off a third of the Whittington Hospital’s buildings and axe hundreds of staff have been scrapped, it has emerged.

Members of the hospital’s board told Camden Council’s health scrutiny committee their “mindset had changed” and they would be going public with a new strategy next week following a three month “listening exercise”.

The Whittington Hospital’s application to become a foundation trust, which requires the hospital to make savings of £4.8million, was the driving force behind the board’s earlier decision to sell a third of the hospital buildings, close wards and cut 400 staff.

The news prompted a huge backlash from the public and MPs, who took part in a 5,000 strong protest outside the hospital in March, supported by the Ham&High’s Hands Off Our Whittington campaign.

During Tuesday’s meeting at Camden’s Town Hall, medical director of integrated care Dr Greg Battle responded to questions over the disposal of hospital properties.

He said: “We don’t have a firm line in the sand and an intention to do A B or C in a particular the time line. What we have in terms of timing is we have refreshed the strategy, we have listened hard to what people have said, and we’re not going to have the certainty nor the line in the sand that it looked like our strategy had even if there was no intention to do any disposals before 2015.”

He added: “The strategy that we are going public with shows a complete re-think.”

Dr Battle admitted to councillors that the hospital, in Magdala Avenue, Highgate, had not done enough consultation before announcing the original sell-off proposals. But executive medical director Dr Martin Kuper emphasised the plans were only ever “provisional”.

Dr Kuper said “undoubtedly” less hospital beds would be needed in future because of a move towards care in the community and a full estates strategy would be announced in September.

Hospital bosses told the committee that plans to become a foundation trust were still in place but the deadline for when the application must be complete had been moved back.

Dr Battle said: “We are still on the journey to foundation trust and we absolutely still believe there is a viable future.”

Whittington chief executive Dr Yi Mien Koh said the hospital should take a longer term view of estates at a board meeting last week.

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