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Whittington Hospital bosses rubbish reports that cancer and cardiac centres are closing

14:22 11 June 2014

Unison campaigners call for better pay for nurses outside the Whittington Hospital. Picture: Polly Hancock

Unison campaigners call for better pay for nurses outside the Whittington Hospital. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Bosses at the Whittington Hospital have strongly denied reports that its cancer and cardiac centres could be shut down.

Leaders of Whittington Health – the trust in charge of running the hospital in Magdala Avenue, Archway – refuted the claims during their monthly board meeting last Wednesday and complained they had caused “unnecessary panic” among nurses and staff.

The denials were made in the same week the hospital faced two organised protests on its grounds.

The recent allegations appeared to stem from a new initiative released by NHS England that seeks to improve specialist cancer and cardiovascular services in north and east London.

Under the proposals, St Bartholomew’s Hospital would become the centre for specialist treatment of heart disease, while University College Hospital (UCH) and the Royal Free in Pond Street, Hampstead, would join other hospitals to become a centre for the specialist treatment of some types of cancer.

While not included among the cluster of hospitals included in this new initiative, Whittington Health insisted it did not mean their services would change.

Simon Pleydell, chief executive of Whittington Health, said: “There are no plans to change the provision of cancer or cardiac services offered at Whittington Health.

“NHS England is currently reviewing the provision of ‘specialist’ cancer and cardiac services, which Whittington Health does not offer.

“If these changes were to go ahead, most patients would continue to be diagnosed and where possible receive follow- up care at their local hospital, as currently happens.

“We would like to reassure our patients that our current diagnostic and treatment service for common cancers will continue, along with our full range of cardiac services.”

Before board members were able to refute the claims, they faced one of two protests at the hospital last week.

The board walked out at the beginning of its meeting last Wednesday after campaigners hijacked proceedings to present an anti-privatisation petition signed by more than 5,000 people.

Members and supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) interrupted chairman of Whittington Health, Steve Hitchins, to ask that he and the board listen to their statement, which demanded “no cuts, no privatisation and no sell-off”.

Refusing to change the format of the meeting – and insisting they make their presentation at the end – Mr Hitchins called for board members to walk out of the room as the protesters unravelled a huge scroll of signatures.

The next day Whittington Unison and Unite staff demonstrated for “fair pay” outside the hospital entrance in tandem with similar protests outside hospitals across the country.

Nurses were demonstrating against a continuing pay freeze and staff being refused a one per cent rise in salaries.

Shirley Franklin, of the Defend the Whittington Coalition, called for board members to “fully engage” with the community and for a “more open consultation”.

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