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Campaign launched to fight A&E closure

PUBLISHED: 11:03 17 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:37 07 September 2010

A GRASS roots campaign fighting proposals to close the Whittington Hospital s A&E department has begun in earnest. At its inaugural meeting on Monday, the Defend The Whittington Hospital Coalition saw residents, doctors and patients join force

Tan Parsons

A GRASS roots campaign fighting proposals to close the Whittington Hospital's A&E department has begun in earnest.

At its inaugural meeting on Monday, the Defend The Whittington Hospital Coalition saw residents, doctors and patients join forces to form a battle plan.

It includes a petition, street marches and a potential vigil outside the A&E entrance on Highgate Hill.

The move followed a meeting last week when Rachel Tyndall - the NHS boss behind the proposals - faced a barrage of questions from protesters over leaked documents confirming plans to downgrade the Whittington to a "local hospital" with no A&E or specialist services.

Former Islington Carers Centre boss Shirley Franklin was voted in as the coalition's joint chairwoman.

She said: "It's very important we have an overarching campaign. We are not a political organisation - we need to be a broad church.

"We need a joint petition and we want this to have as much whack and power behind it as possible.

"We need a strong visual campaign and we need to work towards a massive demonstration."

She criticised the idea of an NHS consultation over the money-saving proposals as a joke - saying that no-one in their right mind would speak in favour of closing the A&E department.

A coalition march will take place on February 27 against the proposals. Campaign guidelines were also agreed - setting out the aims of preventing the run-down, closure or privatisation of A&E or other key services at the Whittington or north London hospitals.

Candy Udwin, chairwoman of the Camden Keep Our NHS Public Campaign, said: "When you close the A&E wing, it's a bit of a death knell for the rest of the hospital.

"This is not just happening at the Whittington. This is happening across the whole of London. There are billions of pounds' worth of cuts on the horizon."

Haringey Trade Union Council chairman Keith Flett warned that the fight to save the hospital would be hard and could last for years.

"If they can't do it now, they'll still be trying to do it in two or three years' time," he said.

"They will consult - they won't take any notice of what we say but they will say they have.

"Their aim is just to wear us down. Their idea is that they will last longer than we can. We mustn't give up. We've got to keep campaigning."

Protesters vented their fears and frustrations - with some even raising the suggestion that the Whittington could eventually be sold to make room for private developments.

According to the leaked letter from North Central London NHS, the options for a reshuffle of hospital services in Barnet, Enfield, Haringey, Camden and Islington are due to be appraised in January 2010.

The next coalition meeting is on January 7 at 7pm in the Whittington Park Community Centre, Yerbury Road, off Holloway Road.


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