More than 800 people attended two public meetings last week to launch a campaign to defend Whipps Cross Hospital in North East London. The hospital is facing £44 million cuts in the next two years. This has already led to ward and operating theatre closures, the loss of 107 beds and 276 redundancies.
Now Whipps faces an even bigger threat in the shape of a review by NHS London of hospital provision in the area. Campaigners fear that this could lead to a major rundown as services are transferred to hospitals in Romford and Goodmayes. These hospitals are already overstretched and at least an hour and half away by public transport.
Both public meetings were addressed by local MPs, consultants from Whipps and local health workers. The earlier meeting was organised by local Tory MP Iain Duncan-Smith. Although the larger of the two, it focused solely on Whipps with no mention of the wider crisis facing the NHS. Keep Our NHS Public activists were prevented from speaking.
At the second meeting both local Labour MPs spoke, but while fully supporting the campaign to save the hospital, they have sought to absolve the government from blame.
However, Dot Gibson, vice president of the National Pensioners Convention, warned, “the government is using a range of measures to privatise the NHS by stealth. The threat to Whipps must be seen against this background”.
Dixie Dean, a local ambulance worker, said “New Labour is telling hospital trusts that they must balance the books. But money is no object when it comes to occupying Iraq”. Respect local election candidate Carole Vincent told the meeting to loud applause, “I don’t want to die in an ambulance on the A12”. She called for a mass campaign to save Whipps.
The meeting agreed to call a lobby of the Waltham Forest council meeting which will discuss Whipps, support a lobby of NHS London, collect signatures on petitions and organise a demonstration at the end of the consultation period.