Campaigners boycott talks with board over Whittington Hospital sell off

Campaigners opposed to plans which would see almost half of the Whittington Hospital being sold off have boycotted a meeting with health bosses.

Members of Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition (DWHC) said they had to pull-out of a meeting with the board of Whittington Health, the trust which runs the hospital, because hospital bosses “were adamant about controlling every aspect of it”.

The meeting, which was scheduled to take place this evening, had been organised to discuss details of the hospital’s latest application to become a Foundation Trust.

As part of the proposals, the Whittington Hospital plans to sell off a third of its buildings and close three ward closures to make savings of around £5million.

Chair of DWHC, Shirley Franklin, said it was meant to be a joint meeting chaired by Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn, and an opportunity to voice concerns to the board.

Chair of Whittington Health Joe Liddane said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the group’s decision to decline their offer of a meeting, which he said “would have been beneficial to both the DWHC and to our board”.

In an email sent to Mr Liddane, Ms Franklin wrote: “We had understood that this would be a joint meeting, chaired by Jeremy Corbyn. “You have said that this is not acceptable. We do not think that your format would allow us to voice our concerns to the whole board, and that our position will not be incorporated into the new Foundation Trust plans.

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“Further the committee is concerned about the meeting’s proposed structure, with break-out groups.”

The email continued: “It is felt that this format would not allow access to all for discussion and could involve individual persuasive techniques as to positive outcomes of what DWHC considers is likely to be an unacceptable plan, especially if it involves selling our hospital land, reducing staff and beds, as well as early discharge.”

In response, Mr Liddane said: “I was surprised and disappointed to receive your email declining the Whittington Health board’s offer of a meeting.

“The opportunity to discuss the five year plans that we are working on, and which underpin our application to become a Foundation Trust, would have been beneficial to both the DWHC and to our board.

“We genuinely wish to hear your views about the difficult issues that we face.

“You seem to have made a number of pre-judgements - that we will not listen to your concerns, that your views will not be taken into account, and that our eventual plans will be unacceptable to you.

“It is regrettable that you might approach a meeting from a stance of such mistrust.”

The campaign group has also called on the trust to reveal how much is being spent on private consultancy firm Ernst and Young, which has been employed to help the hospital re-draft its sell-off proposals.

Mr Liddane, who worked at the company 20 years ago, said he was “completely apart from the procurement process” and the terms of the contract were commercially confidential.

A revised strategy for the trust’s foundation trust application is set to be announced in July.