I spoke with Robert Aitken, Whittington board member, at our Camden Green Party stall in Highgate last Saturday.
He told me that they were closing the 175 beds because of clinical evidence that being in hospital is bad for people. It confuses elderly people and it results in muscle loss generally. He said people should be cared for by friends and neighbours, or, failing that, the NHS would take care of them in their homes. Ah yes, care in the community...ring any (alarm) bells?
This week, a report showed that the Whittington is doing well in 10 out of 11 areas. The one area it is failing in is putting patients onto the appropriate wards because - guess what - they don't have enough beds. And so I'm not sure how closing another 175 beds is going to improve that, particularly as London's population is projected to hit 9m in 2018.
I put this to Robert. He said they had factored that in. I'm not sure how. He also said that "if we need more beds we will just have to find them." Forgive me if I don't believe that. People will be turned away and lives will be lost.
As for selling off the dilapidated, disused buildings, I am not completely opposed to this, unlike the Defend the Whittington campaigners. My only concern with that is that the hospital will become much smaller and, at some point, they will say it is 'no longer viable'. Robert denied that this will happen, and that "it is not in our [the board's] interest to close it down!" but, if we look at Haringey - 6 hospitals at the beginning of the '80s, now down to one, with only 3 wards, one of which is about to close - I don't see why we should believe that.
Furthermore, as I pointed out to Robert, the board has completely lost the trust of the community, having tried to sneak these plans through without consultation. "We shot ourselves in the foot there..." was his response to that. Indeed.