Search

New Whittington Hospital chair defiant in face of protest: ‘I’m not a private healthcare stooge’

11:28 10 January 2014

Protest over the appointment of Steve Hitchins as chair of the Whittington Health hospital board. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Protest over the appointment of Steve Hitchins as chair of the Whittington Health hospital board. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

A controversial new hospital boss has hit back at claims that he is a private healthcare stooge on the day a protest was held against his appointment.

Steve Hitchins says he is not a 'private healthcare stooge'Steve Hitchins says he is not a 'private healthcare stooge'

Steve Hitchins started a two-year stint as chairman of the board at the Whittington Hospital on January 1, amid a furore surrounding his political background – including unproven accusations of croneyism – and his allegedly aggressive management style.

On Wednesday, dozens of protesters congregated outside the Magdala Avenue hospital in Highgate ahead of his first board meeting, to question his links to private healthcare companies and to call for him and chief executive Dr Yi Mien Koh to resign.

Mr Hitchins, 62, former Lib Dem leader of Islington Council, said: “I am a victim of my own marketing.

“I was an unpaid consultant on a couple of occasions when working for a group advising failing local governments.

“I was asked for advice about commissioning healthcare contracts.

“My advice was so terrible, none of them got the contracts. I have never made a penny from the NHS expect from my non-executive positions.

“The internet is very unforgiving.”

A government website says Mr Hitchins “works with a number of private sector companies principally contracting with local government or the health service”.

Shirley Franklin, chairman of the Defend the Whittington coalition, said: “It is very worrying. Our problem is his links to private healthcare and the fact he was a Lib Dem councillor – a party that allowed the Health and Social Care Act through Parliament.

“We don’t want our hospital privatised. How and why was this appointment allowed to happen?”

Mr Hitchins responded: “I didn’t appoint myself. I am allowed opinions on legislation, the same as everyone else.

“I haven’t stood for election for eight years and am not going to get drawn into a debate about the Health and Social Care Act.

“I don’t think anyone sees the act as wholly good or bad, but I do think it will increase accountably, which is something I am keen to do.”

Mr Hitchins was the leader of Islington Council from 2000 to 2006, during which time Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes he authorised plunged the town hall into £1.3billion of debt.

He was also at the centre of a three-and-a-half year legal battle which cost the borough more than £350,000 – but was cleared of croneyism.

Cllr Martin Klute, who replaced him in St Peter’s ward, branded him “unreliable, undemocratic and serving his own interests before anyone else”.

He is now concerned Mr Hitchens will continue in this vein during his two-day-a-week, £21,000-a-year role.

Mr Hitchins replied: “I’ve only been here a week. My job at the moment is to listen, which is what I will be doing at the board meeting.”

0 comments

Latest News Stories

Edward the Sloth is being taught to feed and climb by surrogate mothers

Keepers at London Zoo have enlisted a teddy to help them rear a baby male sloth after his mother became unable to feed him.

11:00
Thornton Way in Hampstead Garden Suburb

Two women were attacked and made hostages in their own home in a terrifying raid on their Hampstead Garden Suburb house.

11:41
Fortunately, nobody was hurt in the fire

A personal trainer has been praised after 15 people escaped a fire at a fitness centre in Belsize Park.

Sir Nicholas Winton. Picture: Nigel Sutton

In life, Sir Nicholas Winton kept his Second World War heroics a secret for nearly 50 years but following his death earlier this month, he could now be immortalised with his very own postage stamp.

Most read news

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Get your hands on some fresh trainers!

Need some new shoes to head to work or some new heels for a night on the cobbles? London24 has teamed up with online retailer Sole Trader to offer £100 worth of shoes to one lucky reader.

Take in the stunning sites of London from the summit of the O2!

Up at The O2 has teamed up with London24 to give one lucky reader the chance to experience urban mountaineering this summer with an exhilarating 90-minute climb across the roof of one of London’s most iconic landmarks.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder