Editor’s view: Campaign’s birthday gift to our NHS

The Whittington Hospital in Archway. Picture: PA ARCHIVE

The Whittington Hospital in Archway. Picture: PA ARCHIVE - Credit: `Steve Parsons/PA Archive

It is no small marvel that, in 2018, a local campaign group is able to score a major victory against a company so large it holds millions of pounds’ worth of public contracts.

But the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition group has achieved exactly that and given the Whittington either sufficient courage or sufficient shame to can one of the most controversial private partnerships I can remember being mooted by any public body.

Over more than a decade, the DWHC has opposed the sell-off of its local hospital assets and fought to keep an A&E on the Whittington site, helping see off a string of threats and organising enormous marches and protests alongside local papers including the Gazette (which ran its massive “Hands Off Our Whittington” campaign with DWHC and sister paper the Ham&High five years ago).

We can sleep a little more easily knowing the likes of DWHC have the backs of our health services.However it is phrased in the formal press statements from the Whittington and, if at all, Ryhurst, this is a climbdown, and one the DWHC should be proud of.

But as the NHS turns 70 today (Thu) I can’t help but worry about about all those health services across the country that don’t have clued-up, empowered and indefatigable campaign groups (and a strong local press) to fight for their rights. We must be able to trust those in charge will defend it, but that trust feels misplaced. Time and again, successive governments seem to have done the opposite, squeezing as much private cash as possible out of this greatest of public assets while leaving the NHS underresourced. The government’s starting point should not be balancing the bottom line but delivering the service. Everything else – funding models, tax levels, restructures, spending priorities – must follow from that single core principle.