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Weather emergency brings reality check on Whittington proposals

PUBLISHED: 13:19 24 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:39 07 September 2010

IF ever there was a week when the proposal to close the Whittington s A&E could be shown up for the folly it would become, it was this week. For there is more than mere irony in the fact that at a time when its very future is at stake, the Whittington ha

IF ever there was a week when the proposal to close the Whittington's A&E could be shown up for the folly it would become, it was this week.

For there is more than mere irony in the fact that at a time when its very future is at stake, the Whittington has had one of the busiest weeks in its history. There is also a warning to those who would wield the axe for reasons more to do with targets and budgets than with meeting the real needs and concerns of people who know how much they pay for the 'luxury' of the NHS every time they scan through the deductions on their pay cheques.

The statisticians can pore over figures endlessly and the health service spin doctors may spout mumbo jumbo to eternity, but it was Mother Nature who intervened this week to put matters in real-life perspective. While the Whittington's corridors were teeming with people in need, the Royal Free - the place to where the Whittington's services would be transferred - was closing its A&E department to all but the walking wounded, and turning outpatients away.

As the snow fell on Monday, how many ambulances could be seen in the Archway area trying their best to reach the Whittington from adjacent points? What would it have been like for the poor people inside those ambulances if the drivers had no other option than to try to reach other hospitals three or four miles away because the Whittington no longer had an operational A&E department?

Monday night was exceptional, but dealing with the exceptional is part and parcel of what our emergency services were designed to do. Anything less makes them, by definition, unfit for purpose. God forbid that there would be a genuine national emergency or a local disaster post the closure of the Whittington's A&E. Who then would answer to the questions posed by relatives of people who didn't quite make it to the nearest point of treatment?

Hospital administrators move around so frequently nowadays that it's unlikely than the architects of these current proposals would be anywhere near the scene of the crime by then. That's one of many reasons why people are right to fight the proposals with all the strength they can muster.


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