After months of opposing any changes at all to the Whittington Hospital, it seems some Labour members have finally realised that campaigning against any changes to the hospital will do more harm than good. See this tweet from Labour Cllr Martin Klute, for instance.
When the Whittington Board announced that it would be making changes to the hospital in January, everyone was shocked. Politicians across the Borough all agreed that the Hospital’s communications strategy had been appalling.
But then, we disagreed. A good summary of the disagreements between the Lib Dem and Labour approach can be found in the news here, with a further explanation below.
From the outset – the local Lib Dems and I knew that, despite their appalling communications, the Whittington Board members were trying to make changes to secure the long term future of the Hospital.
In order for the Whittington to be successful in their Foundation Trust application, the Board needed to make plans for change. They include selling off derelict buildings so that money can be reinvested in A&E and maternity. It also includes reducing beds in non-urgent wards, so that care can be transferred to the community.
Without making these changes, the Board would have been unsuccessful in securing Foundation Trust Status. This would have led to a takeover of the hospital, a loss of services, and loss of local control.
That’s why the Lib Dems and I did not oppose all changes out right. Unlike others, we would not oppose all changes to the Hospital for quick political gain.
Instead, we called for no loss of hospital services as a result of the changes, and for a full public consultation.
We had numerous meetings with the board and called a public meeting so residents could have their say. In response to our 2,700 signature strong petition, we received these assurances.
We continue to ask tough questions about the future of integrated care. We have continued our petition to ensure the Board engages with the public and keeps its word about services.
Labour, however, campaigned against any change or sale of land. They used the opportunity to try and blame the Government for what was happening, and score political points, despite the hospital’s plans having nothing to do with the Government.
During a separate public meeting, David Lammy MP spoke of how any changes would be the death knell for the Whittington. In fact, the opposite is true.
Some Labour politicians, such as Islington Council leader Catherine West, continue to oppose any changes, despite the growing realisation that change is necessary to protect the hospital. However, some Labour councillors have now come out against the Labour position.
I hope in time Labour will see sense and follow our example, fighting to keep local services not derelict buildings.
So, while Labour tries to get its house in order and find a coherent position – the local Lib Dems and I will stick to our original and clear position: That during this period of change, the Whittington should continue to engage with the public, and ensure that no local services are lost.