A quickly organised meeting to defend the Whittington hospital in north London last week saw more than 250 angry residents and health workers come together to demand that the hospital’s accident and emergency unit is safeguarded.
Rachel Tyndall, the chief executive of Islington and the north central London NHS, was forced to admit that the closure threat was about budgets and cost-cutting.
Nevertheless, she also claimed that “consultation” showed a huge percentage of people wanted “choice”, and that the closure was part of a package that reflected that.
Of course she decided not to mention the “choice” to keep the casualty department open – and as a result the meeting did not believe a word she said.
Instead we talked about our own experiences, and the vital services the Whittington provides. The wider issues of NHS privatisation and the sale of our hospitals to private health companies were also raised.
Local Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn chaired the meeting.
He raised the issue in parliament last week, saying of the Whittington, “It is a successful hospital of which we can all be proud. The hospital employs 2,000 staff and has 400 beds.
“Last year, it treated 20,000 in-patients, 16,000 day cases and 233,000 out-patients. It delivered 3,683 babies and, crucially, it treated 80,000 people in its accident and emergency department.”
At the meeting many residents talked about the need for a fight back. Now it is up to us to organise one.