Whttington Hospital chairman: ‘Don’t sell off buildings’ ignores desperate need for investment

Joe Liddane, chairman of Whittington Health, argues that the controversial plans to sell off almost a third of the hospital site, axe 60 beds, scrap 570 jobs, close three wards, and cap births at 4,000, a year are not only necessary but right.

All of us want to develop and preserve what is good about the Whittington.

We need to find common ground.

The people who are walking need to be involved in the talking process.

The five-year strategy has been overwhelmingly endorsed by NHS London and the GP commissioners.

Care divided between the home, the local health centre and the hospital has been overwhelmingly endorsed by GP commissioners.

The Whittington is not only doing the right thing, it is at the vanguard of doing the right thing.

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It’s the future direction of the NHS.

It will also help us save money.

Every year, the money that the NHS gives organisations like us deflates by 1.5 per cent.

Costs rise by about three per cent a year.

Each year, we need to save about five per cent of £270million just to stand still.

If the money pressures weren’t there, we would still think combining care at hospital with care at home would be better.

But you can’t keep pouring all the nation’s money into health.

We also need £10million to make the maternity unit what we want it to be.

Nearby, the Waterlow building has been unoccupied for 10 years.

Wouldn’t you want to make use of stuff that isn’t fit for purpose to improve stuff core to the hospital?

When people say, “Don’t sell off buildings,” they need to look at the desperate need for investment.

When the NHS authorities dug deeply into the finances (of the strategy), it became clear we needed to do more detailed financial modelling (before it can be submitted as part of the Whittington’s foundation trust application).

But the figures do stack up.

There is no question of suspending this strategy.

We are fully committed to it.

If we had a chance to talk through it with people, they wouldn’t object.

But there is the opportunity to make some amendments.

The final date to become a foundation trust is April 1, 2014.

We are still within that timetable if we submit the application within three to six months.

The implications of not meeting the deadline are too serious.

By April 2014, the Whittington will be a foundation trust one way or another – as part of someone else’s trust or on our own.

My guess is that if we were part of someone else’s trust, they would then start looking at rationalisation.