Still no ‘definitive answer’ on Whipps Cross beds

The first joint committee on Whipps Cross made some councillors ‘more worried than before’
By Victoria Munro

Action4Whipps campaigners outside the first ever joint committee meeting yesterday (A4W)
Action4Whipps campaigners outside the first ever joint committee meeting yesterday (A4W)

Whipps Cross still has no “definitive answer” on how many beds will be in the new hospital despite expecting to get planning permission in autumn.

The hospital’s redevelopment programme director Alastair Finney made the admission at the first ever meeting of a new joint committee, set up to scrutinise the plans, on 19th October.

Waltham Forest Council created the committee, intended to allow Redbridge and Essex County Councils more of a say in the project, on 2nd September after a request from Redbridge.

Mr Finney was responding to a request by a Redbridge councillor for a “formal commitment” from Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs Whipps, that there will not be less beds.

Redbridge councillor Beverley Brewer said: “It’s quite simple, in my view, is it going to have less beds or not? A lot of people find it extraordinary that hundreds of millions of pounds will be spent just to end up with less beds.”

Mr Finney replied: “We could provide at least as many beds in the new hospital as today, should that be needed, but I do not, however, have a definitive answer today on how many beds will be needed.

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“As we get closer to the new hospital, we will continue to develop our image of what that necessary capacity will be.”

Essex County councillor Jaymey McIvor said there seemed to be “more clarity on the number of parking spaces than hospital beds”.

He added: “It seems, in an area with a growing population, we would naturally aspire to increase beds. I find this quite peculiar.”

The committee also heard from local resident David Lee about the important work of the Margaret Centre, which offers specialist end-of-life care at Whipps Cross.

He explained that the centre cared for his wife before her death a few weeks ago and that, without it, the end of her life “would have been much poorer, if not frighteningly traumatic”.

He said: “The Margaret Centre provides on-site, good quality, NHS specialist palliative care. I urge you to think very carefully before allowing this to be lost.”

Mr Finney responded that the centre would not be lost but admitted it could be moved somewhere else in north east London.

An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated Cllr McIvor has no vote on the committee as he is a representative of Epping Forest. However, he also represents Essex County Council and was sent as their delegate, which entitles him to a vote.

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