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Whittington Hospital chief won’t rule out sell-off in face of £16m cuts

PUBLISHED: 18:37 15 June 2015 | UPDATED: 18:37 15 June 2015

Save Whittington Hospital March

Save Whittington Hospital March

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

The Whittington Hospital could sell off buildings to help it make tens of millions of pounds in cuts over the next three years, its chief executive has admitted.

Interim chief executive of Whittington Health Simon Pleydell said ensuring stability at the top was a key goal for the trust. Picture: Polly Hancock Interim chief executive of Whittington Health Simon Pleydell said ensuring stability at the top was a key goal for the trust. Picture: Polly Hancock

Whittington Health announced on Wednesday last week that the trust must make £16.5m of savings over the next year after reporting an unexpected deficit of £7.3m at the end of the 2014/2015 financial year.

Despite the huge shortfall, the trust’s chief executive Simon Pleydell pledged in an interview with the Ham&High on Monday that there will be no cuts to services at the Archway hospital. But when pushed, he could not rule out job losses or a sell-off of parts of the estate, specifically its disused buildings.

He said: “I have to look at the possibility of selling parts of the estate if it enables us to improve our environment for patients.

“What isn’t necessarily a good idea is to have empty buildings which are empty in perpetuity and not releasing benefits that they could have for patient care.”

He added: “We will be absolutely transparent about what we are doing and make sure quality and safety is not affected.”

The trust in charge of the hospital is facing one of its most significant financial challenges to date, two years after 5,000 marched across north London to protest against plans to sell off a third of buildings and axe hundreds of jobs. The protests forced the previous administration to abandon its plans.

Shirley Franklin, chairwoman of Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, said: “It’s absolutely appalling. We’ll watch this space, because we don’t want this to happen. We will fight these cuts.”

Mr Pleydell said the hospital will make the savings this year by:

n cutting down on costly temporary agency staff by hiring more permanent employees and trying to reduce its high staff turnover;

n restructuring its back office and management systems;

n renegotiating deals with suppliers to get the best value on materials like medical equipment and office stationery;

n boosting income by renting out space to other health providers and offering more specialist surgical procedures to patients.

He added that the trust will review a potential sell-off as part of its three-year cost improvement plan to save an unconfirmed figure to total tens of millions of pounds.

The trust had intended to break-even by the end of the 2014/15 financial year. It has now predicted to the NHS Trust Development Authority a deficit of £19.5m by the end of 2015/16. But the trust hopes the deficit will actually be no greater than £14.5m.

The figures rely on the trust making £16.5m of savings – about £2m of which will come from Integrated Care and Acute Medicine (ICAM), which includes A&E.

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