Whittington – it just gets worse………..

Rumours are emerging that the planned merger of the Whittington and Royal Free Hospitals will not be enough to satisfy NHS bosses and that there may instead be a forced marriage between the Whittington, Royal Free and UCLH Hospitals.

This raises interesting questions, because UCLH is a Foundation Trust. I believe this may mean that the proposed ‘merger’ will be nothing of the sort, but will instead be a take-over by UCLH of the other two hospitals – a wonderful Xmas present for UCLH, which has been dreaming of this for years…. This disaster just goes on and on….”

Meanwhile, lots of denials by NHS bosses about intentions to close or reduce A&E departments at the Whittington and North Mid.

Having now been in elected politics for over ten years – one thing I am sure of – when there are budget cuts demanded and letters showing closure sent out and then denied – is that the sooner and the louder that local people let their views be known the better!

Otherwise – heaven forfend – we could find that none of the options that come to public consultation next September contain anything that bears any relationship to what local people actually want!

Over a thousand residents sign local MP's save A&E petition in 48 hours

Local residents’ outrage at plans to close the Accident and Emergency (A&E) services at the Whittington and the North Middlesex hospitals has today been made clear after Liberal Democrat petitions against cuts got over a thousand signatures in the first 48 days.

Hornsey and Wood Green MP Lynne Featherstone and Health Spokesperson Cllr Nigel Scott launched the petitions on the 23rd November, after a leaked letter from Islington NHS boss Rachel Tyndall showed that there were plans to possibly close the A&E department at both the Whittington and the North Middlesex Hospital.

Local residents who want to sign the Whittington petition should go to http://bit.ly/SaveOurAandE and residents who want to sign the North MIddlesex petition should go to http://bit.ly/northmid.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“It’s overwhelming and really powerful to see the petition signatures pouring in. It’s clear that local people will not accept cuts or closures of emergency services at our closest hospitals- and neither will I!

“This sends a message loud and clear and I will make sure that local health bosses have no illusions to the contrary when I present the petition – hands off our A&E!”

Cllr Nigel Scott adds:

“Residents need to have a real say when it comes to the future of their nearest emergency service.

“It can literally be a question of life and death and that’s why it’s so important that local residents show how they feel about this now. Please take a minute to sign the petition – it will really make a difference.”

Whittington and North Mid petitions – huge response!

I sent out an email to my email list to inform local people (hard copy will follow more widely) of the threat to close or reduce services at the Whittington A & E and about the threat to the North Middlesex A & E too. Both contain petitions for people to sign up to: The Whittington petition is here and the North Mid petition is at http://bit.ly/northmid.

The responses are pouring in. In the first 24 hours, since yesterday afternoon, 745 people have already signed the Whittington petition and 89 the North Mid.

It is already quite clear that local people don’t want to lose their local A & E nor see it reduced. That is why it is so important that local peoples’ views are heard loud and clear NOW. Otherwise when the Health Authority ‘options’ finally come to public consultation – we may find that there are no options that keep the Whittington A & E open and that in reality the decisions have actually been made. That goes for the North Mid too.

I support improved clinical outcomes, obviously, and there are lots of health services that may be better provided by one or other hospital. But A & E is one of the services that needs to be local and 24 hours – that’s the point.

As one constituent wrote to me who works at one of the hospitals (not the Whittington) ‘there is no more logic to an   A & E unit at University College Hospital than the others.  Medical staff will adapt to what is decided.  UCH and RFH could easily become even more specialist than they already are and would flourish without an A & E.  The Whittington on the contrary exists to provide a local and emergency service and is at risk of having its lifeblood sucked away’.

Couldn’t have put it better myself!

The Whittington is not safe in their hands

I was shocked by the leaked letter (see my earlier post) that showed the Whittington would lose it’s A & E department under all four options being put forward for the reorganisation of health services in what is called London North Central (LNC) Sector of the Strategic Health Authority (Islington, Camden, Barnet, Enfield and Haringey).

I had not been reassured by the hasty press release by LNC saying that the first letter had been confusing and re-issuing a version which changed the Whittington’s fate to being designated a ‘local hospital’ in the options rather than mentioning A& E at all.

‘Local Hospital’ if you look up its meaning on the Department of Health website means that A& E would be reduced to effectively ‘urgent care’ for between 8 and 16 hours per day with no emergency surgery on site. Given the level of need locally – the idea of people having to travel to the Royal Free which has appalling public transport access – does not seem to be designed with local people in mind at all.

Moreover, Haringey which doesn’t actually have a hospital, relies on both the Whittington and The North Middlesex for A & E – and the North Middlesex’ A & E is also under threat in one of the current four options.
Anyway – today I had urgent meetings with both LNC (Stephen Conroy) and the Chief Exec of the Whittington (Rob Larkman) – separately. In terms of LNC – Mr Conroy was very keen to emphasise that nothing was final, that options were still being discussed and drawn up, that no decisions had been taken – and that the options (whatever they ended up as) would go to the Review Panel in December and pre-consultation in January. To avoid the elections – the public consultation on the options would be in September 2010. So if the letter hadn’t been leaked – local people would not have had any say before the election.

The proposals are all around what should be provided where and which of UCH, The Royal Free, Barnet, North Midds, The Whittington and Chase Farm would become ‘major acute’ hospitals and which local.
When I pushed for assurance that the 24 hour A & E service at the Whittington would not be terminated – Mr Conroy could not and would not give that assurance.

I also asked him what autonomy and status the Whittington Board had in all of this. From his answer it is quite clear that whilst the Whittington Board’s opinions are important, they are considered ‘organisationally loyal’ and when looking at the bigger picture of service needs in the ‘sector’ it would be the LCN who would take the decisions.

We also pushed (I was accompanied by Cllr Nigel Scott, LibDem local health spokesperson and Ed Butcher, my Head of Office) for openness and transparency about the processes. We are concerned that by the time there is a wide public consultation (as I said – after the election) – the basic decisions will have been made. That first letter stating that the Whittington would have no A & E even though withdrawn – has left its mark – and I can’t help thinking that where there’s smoke….

It has also been pointed out to me that the Whittington sits on top value land – and that letting the hospital wither on the vine of ever reducing services might at some point enable land sales to a cash-strapped Strategic Health Authority – I hope not!

At the subsequent meeting at the Whittington Hospital, Rob Larkman (CEO) said that they had been shocked too by the letter stating that A & E would not be provided in any of the options and that it was his challenge on that letter that had forced LCN to put out the second letter.

In fact I think the Whittington Board may, to an extent, be an ally of local people in the fight to retain A & E and maternity and obstetrics. The Chair of the Board was also in attendance at this meeting and he said that the Board also fought for what the local community wanted and needed.

So to me, the crucial issues are not the labels that LNC may wish to give their new configurations of major acute, acute, local and so on – the key is still keeping important services like 24 hour A & E and maternity and obstetrics local at the Whittington – whatever the configuration.

I made it quite clear that I would, apart from keeping in close contact with what is happening, make sure that local people are kept informed about what is going on and about what I regard as a real threat to both the 24 hour A & E and the continued provision of maternity and obstetrics at the Whittington – and that I would be campaigning along with my Liberal Democrat colleagues in Haringey and Islington for what local people want and need.