Here’s my latest column for the Ham & High:
Tonight, Thursday March 4, I have arranged a public meeting, where local residents will get the chance to hear at first hand what the hospital bosses have to say about the threat to the A&E at the Whittington Hospital. To represent the NHS, I have invited Rachel Tyndall, Chair of the North Central London (NCL) review panel, the body that has put forward the proposals to close the Whittington A&E, and Richard Sumray, who is chair of Haringey Primary Care Trust.
This will also be an opportunity for you to ask questions – directly to the powers that be. And I want you to be there. If we can show just how strong local feelings are about this threat, I think we might have a chance of stopping them. Following the petitions, the march and demo and the early meetings on the Whittington, we now have the NHS Strategy Document – so we now know from this latest document that there are seven draft ‘options’ for the future of the Whittington. Four out of the seven show an end to 24/7 A&E at the Whittington.
That is still deeply worrying – though some progress on the first leaked letter from Rachel Tyndall to the CEOs and Medical Directors of the relevant hospitals which had four options, all of which completely axed A&E at the Whittington.
This letter was withdrawn after the first round of outcry, but it leaves an underlying belief that the Whittington is on the hit list and that however long and complicated the document supporting the now draft seven options is – that early letter showed which way the thinking was going.
Since then the NHS line is that ‘nothing has been decided’ – but we need to know how that decision will be made. What are the criteria? Will we who use the Whittington and cannot believe the madness of the proposed closure have any real power in that consultation? We also need to guard against being played off against each other as to which of UCH, the Royal Free, Chase Farm, Barnet, the Whittington and North Mids get to retain or offer which service.
Myself and Jeremy Corbyn agreed on the march last Saturday that we will convene all ten MPs across the five boroughs to meet with the decision makers and Ministers to let them know that we will not be divided. No divide and rule – across all five boroughs we will fight for our local health services.
We know that if the Whittington A&E goes, so too does a range of other services – maternity, intensive therapy unit (ITU), proper training for medical students and the ability for local GPs to make emergency referrals to the hospital.
And if they go – how long before the NHS decides to let the rest wither on the vine? We have seen it all before. We marched last Saturday past the Royal Northern Hospital – gone but not forgotten.
No-one voted for this. It was never in the Labour manifesto. The Labour Minister in answer to my many questions says ‘it is a local matter’. And yet – these quango servants to the Government hold our health in their hands – and they are not accountable to us.
They must be stopped. This is our life, our health, our NHS!
The meeting will take place as follows: Thursday, 4th March from 8 pm, Greig City Academy, Hornsey, N8 7NU.
To access the assembly hall where the meeting will be held, please use the entrance from Hillfield Avenue and follow the signs. If you have any questions, just call my office on 020 8340 5459.
UPDATE: Meeting has now taken place and you can read about it here.