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Councillors vow to save emergency wards

PUBLISHED: 11:20 03 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:34 07 September 2010

HARINGEY councillors have vowed to save the accident and emergency department at the Whittington Hospital. In an impassioned debate on Monday night, councillors pledged to lobby health minister Andy Burnham as well as the chief executive of the Whittingto

HARINGEY councillors have vowed to save the accident and emergency department at the Whittington Hospital.

In an impassioned debate on Monday night, councillors pledged to lobby health minister Andy Burnham as well as the chief executive of the Whittington, where A&E services could be axed as a result of a London-wide review.

Liberal Democrat councillor for Alexandra ward, Nigel Scott, introduced the emergency motion to challenge the changes, revealed in November in a leaked letter from North Central London NHS boss Rachel Tyndall.

The letter details four plans to re-organise north London's hospitals and each suggests downgrading the Whittington to a "local hospital" with no accident and emergency or specialist services.

And despite the fact that all options retain an A&E department at the North Middlesex, a senior executive for North Central London NHS has apparently refused to rule out the possibility of cuts there. MP Lynne Featherstone and Stroud Green councillor Ed Butcher claim this was conveyed to them during a meeting.

Cllr Scott told the council chamber: "Haringey has no A&E service in the borough. Our historic hospitals have been downgraded, sold off, redeveloped and shut down.

"The Whittington and the North Mid are now our nearest A&E providers. To suggest, even in an option paper, that removing A&E from either of these two hospitals is acceptable for Haringey, or several other boroughs, shows that whoever wrote the paper is not living in the real world."

Cllr Robert Gorrie, leader of the Lib Dems, called for a public consultation to be held before any decisions are made. He said: "The lack of transparency and clear accountability for the future of these vital services is preventing proper public debate and scrutiny. This issue needs strong local leadership."

Stroud Green councillor Matt Davies said that his partner Owen Davies was treated for appendicitis at the Whittington Hospital in July, adding: "Within about 10 minutes of arriving at the Whittington A&E Owen was put on a drip. That means he was getting treatment only 20 minutes after we left our flat in Muswell Hill.

"It is vital that neither the Whittington nor North Mid hospitals' A&E departments close, as this could put patients at risk."

Haringey Council leader Cllr Claire Kober said she had already written to the chief executive of NHS Islington and would write to the health minister.

Despite the public outcry and political pressure over the leaked letter, a spokesman for the Whittington refused to confirm if there were any plans to close the accident and emergency department.

He said: "We are not aware of any plans to change any services at the Whittington and enquiries can be directed to the North Central London service and organisational review."

Rob Larkman, the Whittington's new chief executive has also previously denied it. Both he and the chief executive of the Royal Free, David Sloman, who moved from the Whittington earlier this year, have confirmed they are in talks about a merger.

According to the letter the options for a reshuffle of services are to be appraised in January. Thousands have already signed a petition against the downgrading of local hospitals and Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, was due to speak in the Commons over the issue last night.

A spokeswoman for the North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust refuted all claims that the A&E department could be downgraded.


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