Earlier this week two
hundred angry North London residents packed into an emergency meeting convened
by Islington’s Labour MP, Jeremy Corbyn, after a government document was leaked
revealing plans to close Archway’s Whittington Hospital Accident &
This news has stunned
the local community, many of whom consider the A&E department to be of
vital importance to the area. 80,000 people are treated by the department every
year. Jeremy Corbyn convened the meeting to get questions answered and invited
Chief Executive of NHS Islington, Rachel Tyndall, to address the audience. Her
speech only served to create greater confusion and anger amongst the residents.
The plan, Ms Tyndall
explained, is for patients with minor injuries to instead attend a daytime only
‘Urgent Care Centre’ that they ‘may’ consider building in place of the A&E.
Patients with serious injuries will have to travel to more distant hospitals.
Three small ‘polyclinics’ will be stuck on to the side of local doctors
surgeries as a token gesture (probably run by private companies). All this is
allegedly part of a ‘process of modernisation aimed at bringing quality health
care to North London.’
Her proposal went
down like a bucket of sick. One by one, local residents got up to share their
outrage. A mother explained that longer distances could mean the death of her
young son, who suffers from chronic asthma. Her boy’s life, she explained, had
already narrowly been saved by the Whittington when the A&E department
resuscitated him after an attack. Scores of other residents claimed they too
would not be present at the meeting had it not been for the local A&E. Many
were elderly, who claimed that travelling to more distant hospitals could be
the difference between life and death.
What was also made
clear from the meeting was that closing A&E departments usually spells the
end of hospitals altogether. Resident and Labour Party activist, Gary Heather,
described how promises were made that the nearby Royal Northern Hospital would
be kept open after its A&E was shut down. These, Gary explained, were lies.
The Royal Northern was closed soon after. Scores of others recounted similar
stories. The Prince of Wales Hospital was shut down in 1983. The Middlesex
Hospital was closed in 2005. Chase Farm Hospital is currently fighting closure.
Residents fear the Whittington will be next.
The questions posed
by the audience were clear. How will closing the Whittington’s A&E help to
provide ‘quality healthcare’? Given that all other hospitals are already
oversubscribed, how will they cope with the Whittington’s 80,000 A&E
patients? And why is it that communities are ignored by the authorities? 73 per
cent of the Chase Farm residents voted against the closure of their hospital.
The truth is,
‘modernisation’ is a smoke screen for cuts. The government is looking to cut
£500,000 from the current NHS budget, and to save a total of £5billion by 2017.
The best way for them to do this is to shrink it down, and sell off as much as
they can to private companies. This could be the beginning of the end of the
NHS as we know it. The government has its sights on an American style private
health care system, where we would all have to pay private companies for our
health care. These companies would make profit from our suffering.
message the Islington residents made to the Chief Executive of NHS Islington,
Rachel Tyndall, was clear.
- No to the closure of the Whittington A&E.
- No to
- Public consultations are a farce: ‘We will fight every step of the way,
and lie in front of bulldozers if we have to’.