Labour split on Whittington

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.

4 thoughts on “Labour split on Whittington

  1. The problem at the heart of this is the necessity for foundation trust status, passed by you and your gov and now not recommended by health gurus.
    There is a rumour that the ft requirement may go, which would of course be better for all.
    Defend Whitt coalition stands against all cuts and privatization and the retention of a fully equipped hospital service that meets our hospital health needs. The sell-off plans are dangerous. They cut beds when this already insufficient beds at the hospital and sell off our hospital land permanently. And the loss of jobs is a disgrace. If this goes through you, the Board and this government will have blood on its hands.

    It’s appalling to try and points score on who has got the most viscious approach to hospital care.
    You should be supporting an improved not worsened health service.

  2. “See this tweet from Labour Cllr Martin Klute, for instance.” OK, there’s an instance of it. Any others? As you say things like ‘Labour councillors’, but the only evidence you provide is 1) a link to that tweet, 2) a link to a blogpost about that same tweet, and 3) another link to that same tweet. That’s a councillor, not councillors plural. That doesn’t really undermine the idea that Labour has a coherent position. Is there no Lib Dem who disagrees with you on this at all?

  3. It is untrue to say the Government has nothing to do with with the hospital plans it is the Government who have made Foundation Trust Status complusory. Some hospitals with a smaller catchment area of patients are not allowed to exist no matter how good they are and are forced to join others in a Foundation Trust Status, scattering services, making services further from home not nearer. Clearly services will be lost as well as estate land at the Whittington and at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, completely ignoring the future with our growing populations.
    It is a poor argument to say some Labour councillors have come out against the Labour position (the kettle calling the pot black) when your party and Conservative MPs have come out against these wholsale plans especially when it effects their area.
    The Government are responsible for what is proposed for the Whittington hospital and others, with the top down reorganization with no mandate to do it.

  4. Shirley – it was Labour who introduced Foundation Trust status requirements.

    As soon as the Whittington announced their plans, local Labour immediately started a campaign calling for no changes and no sell off – without looking at the facts. They saw it as a great short term political gain and way to criticise the Govt (and me).

    The Hospital were to blame for the lack of info. They botched their comms strategy and should have done better.

    But – It is now obvious and clear that, if the Board do not make any changes or sell off derelict buildings – the hospital will fail its FT application and face a take over. We would lose many services and our local control. Is that what you want?

    By making changes, the board are trying to secure the long term future of the hospital. That is something we surely all support.

    I know changes must be carefully monitored. That’s why I’ve been meeting regularly with the Hospital board, and making sure they are liaising with the Council on their integrated care plan and stepping up their public engagement. I am also holding them to account with a 3,000 signature strong petition calling for no losses to services during this period of change.

    I am very glad that Cllr Klute has bravely stepped forward and taken a reasoned approach. As he rightly said – trying to stop the hospital making any changes at all will do more harm than good.

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