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Whittington A&E will not close

April 26, 2010

Thousands of us marched up the Holloway Road earlier this year

The prospect of closure at the Whittington Hospital Accident and Emergency has infuriated and alarmed everyone in Islington … Camden and Islington too. It’s also been rumoured that the Whittington’s excellent maternity facilities could close in a further ‘rationalisation’.

The fury in our Borough is widespread because absolutely everyone has a story to tell about a friend, neighbour or relative who has been born at the Whittington or had their life saved there.

In the House of Commons, Labour’s health Minister has said that “no case has been made” for its closure. So why does the threat hang over everyone? And why are the Lib Dems and Tories in Islington claiming that a Labour Government wants to “close the Whittington” when it isn’t true?

The answer is … NHS bureaucrats. They are the ones who have decided, in secret, that ‘we have too many hospitals’ and they want to close some of them.

Most people assume that the NHS is a single “top-downwards” organisation, managed day-to-day directly from Whitehall. But that is not the case at all. It is actually a very decentralised organisation. And during the lifetime of the current Labour Government, it has become even more decentralised so that many of the healthcare decisions are taken by local boards with significant local government involvement. Accountability for decisions has passed “downwards” to local authorities rather than “upwards” to the Government. And a law passed in 2006 gives local authorities quite strong powers to scrutinise Primary Care Trusts and Hospitals.

But NHS agencies in this part of London do not seem very accountable to anyone. And their boards appear to be an escape hatch for failed local politicians. Labour Councillors were astonished in May 2006 when Islington Council’s Lib Dem Leader was dumped by the voters only to be re-appointed weeks later as the Vice Chair of Islington Primary Care Trust. He held that position for another 3 years before being given an even more senior “non-executive” role in charge of “reconfiguring” acute services in North London.

Incredibly the Lib Dem Council leadership has played along with this. Last October they were in cahoots with the Primary Care Trust over the closure of Whittington’s A&E. And for almost a year they were actively supporting the decision to close Finsbury Health Centre. Now the same Lib Dems have the sheer nerve to claim that all these changes are the responsibility of Labour. They have even managed to rustle-up a yellowing clip from the Daily Express making this barmy allegation.

Now they have been caught out wildly exaggerating their role in the broad-based community campaign against the A&E closure. Shirley Franklin writes in the latest Islington Gazette that she is:

“…fed up with the Liberal Democrats implying in their election literature that they organised the 5,000-strong demonstration against the closure of The Whittington A&E, maternity, paediatrics and trauma units. They did not.”

Labour in Islington has been trying to get a grip on the NHS bureaucrats for 4 years. But the Lib Dems have a laissez-faire attitude that the “professionals know best” and should be left to take their decisions without interference. The Lib Dems maintain a cosy arrangement with the Primary Care Trust taking all the credit for “improved health outcomes” without ever accepting any of the accountability that should go alongside this. And when something goes wrong they flip-flop around claiming to be leading the public opposition.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Carol Cameron permalink
    April 28, 2010 11:39 am

    Dear Bridget Fox,
    According to your recent campaign literature the forthcoming election is a two horse race: “It is Bridget Fox or Labour. “
    Apparently I have a choice between ‘a new Lib Dem MP who will put local people first, or a Labour MP who has let us down.”
    Clearly if this is true then it is my civic duty to vote for you, Bridget Fox.

    But who is this Labour MP who is unworthy of my vote and how has this Labour MP let me down?
    The MP is not actually named in the document but is referred as “Gordon Brown’s MP” and there is a picture representing this MP which resembles Gordon Brown.
    But Gordon Brown is not standing in this constituency and does not live here.
    What Bridget Fox is implying is that this MP is a Gordon Brown stooge.
    And this Gordon Brown stooge is accused of , inter alia , threatening the closure of the A&E and other units at the Whittington Hospital.
    Whereas Bridget Fox is, so you claim, “now leading the fight against the cuts at Whittington.”
    If this were true, then there is no two ways about it; the only choice would be Bridget Fox.
    And why should I doubt her word?
    I question it because of evidence I have come across that appears to falsify it.

    I quote here from a letter in the Islington Gazette 20th April from Shirley Franklin, joint chair of the Defend the Whittington Coalition :

    I am fed up with the Liberal Democrats implying in their election literature that they organised the 5,000-strong demonstration against the closure of The Whittington A&E, maternity, paediatrics and trauma units. They did not.

    They have not offered to help us with the campaign and as far as I am aware, have not hosted a public meeting in the borough, unlike Jeremy Corbyn and ourselves.

    Jeremy Corbyn is the (Labour) MP for Islington North.
    The MP whom Bridget Fox disparagingly refers to as “Gordon Brown’s MP “ and accuses of threatening the closure of units of the Whittington is Emily Thornberry.
    What has Emily Thornberry actually done regarding the Whittington units?
    I quote here from Hansard Debate March 9th :
    Emily Thornberry (Islington, South and Finsbury) (Lab): Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that NHS Islington is currently engaged in a so-called pre-consultation about the future of our greatly loved Whittington hospital? That so-called consultation is as chaotic and incoherent as it is alarming and wrong. Will he instruct NHS Islington to listen to local MPs and the public and dismiss any suggestion that Whittington A and E and maternity unit should close?
    Mr. O’Brien: As my hon. Friend knows, I have said in a debate on the Floor of the House in December that I have concerns about what is happening in relation to the Whittington. She has fought a strong fight on the issue and spoken to me about it on several occasions.

    On the basis of this evidence, I have to conclude that, contrary to Bridget Fox’s claims in her campaign literature, our local MP, Emily Thornberry, has been doing a competent job of defending the interests of her constituents in this matter.
    I happened to come across evidence that led me to question Bridget Fox’s claims. Otherwise I might have been deceived by them and considered voting her to prevent Emily Thornberry from retaining her seat. My impression is that they were intended to deceive. I fear Bridget Fox may win the election by such deception. Thus the constituency may be deprived of a competent MP who is doing her job in defending our interests and replaced by one who has exploited us in her pursuit of political power.
    So I am sending Bridget Fox this email and asking her to reply.
    Yours sincerely,
    Carol Cameron

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