Campaigners claim victory after U-turn on Whittington Hospital sell-off but say battle is not yet won
Health campaigners have hailed the scrapping of unpopular sell-off proposals at the Whittington Hospital as a huge success – but have raised concerns over the implications of moving more health care into the community.
Members of the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition kick-started a campaign against the hospital’s controversial proposals to sell-off buildings and reduce patient capacity and staff numbers, following January’s announcement
They were backed by politicians, celebrities, thousands of residents and the Ham&High’s Hands Off Our Whittington campaign as the community united for a 5,000-strong protest in March.
The revised plans published this week come after a three-month consultation with the public and have been welcomed by the coalition of campaigners as well as union officials. However, they have warned the battle is not over yet.
Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition chair Shirley Franklin said: “I’m very glad we put them in to a position of having to re-do their plan and that they are going to sell fewer buildings. I’m very proud of the campaign.
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“In terms of their clinical strategy and moving from care in hospital to the home, it will only work if there is a support network. At the moment we don’t think people will get proper care in the community.
“There are a lot of people who won’t be supported properly in their recovery.”
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George Binette, branch secretary of Camden Unison, said he was relieved bed numbers were not going to be reduced but said the failure of the hospital to quantify redundancies was “cruel”.
He said: “Without quantifying the staff numbers it’s not very meaningful. It’s a very cruel and cynical mask for cuts.
“There are voluntary redundancies happening now.”
He said plans which would require staff to be more flexible so they can work both in the hospital and in the community were likely to lead to increased work loads.
“Increasing flexibility is used by employers as a mantra which means squeezing more out of people for no more money.
“We’re pleased they are not cutting bed capacity, but without additional resources I can’t see how they can deliver their community care programme with less staff.
“Bed capacity is at 90 per cent which raises the question, aren’t staff already stretched?
“The devil will be in the detail, they need to quantify what minimum redundancies means.
“A lot more information is needed to reassure me the campaigning has achieved a significant victory. However, it is hopeful.”