A plea from Mary Burnett, of Waltham Forest Save Our NHS
Residents of Waltham Forest and staff working at Whipps Cross University Hospital in Leytonstone will have been concerned and dismayed at the latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection report, which rated the hospital as ‘inadequate’.
Parts of the report, especially about end of life care, are disturbing. There continues to be some reports of staff being bullied.
We all want an excellent local hospital, but what is happening at Whipps Cross shows how hard it is to improve a service in the face of government policy that is knowingly underfunding and destabilising our health service.
Every day we hear about the crisis in our hospitals, and in social care, yet the government is determined to resist additional funding. Since 2010 the NHS has been underfunded, and social care budgets have been cut by 30 percent. Staff salaries have been frozen for years, and many nurses have been forced to sign up with agencies or take second jobs in order to make ends meet, especially given the high costs of living in London.
Problems in recruitment and retention, and an over-reliance on agency staff, all affect patient care and costs. Yet, throughout the CQC report, the staff in most departments at Whipps Cross are described as dedicated and caring.
Despite the phenomenal pressure on all accident and emergency departments – last year Whipps Cross saw 197,000 patients – the report said “patients received compassionate care and were treated with dignity and respect”.
The CQC chief inspector also said Whipps Cross, after changes in management, “is moving in the right direction”. Maternity and gynaecology, and children’s services, are all now rated as good.
At Waltham Forest Save Our NHS we believe there are two major threats to services at Whipps Cross improving as they need to: The financial situation of Barts NHS Health Trust, which runs the hospital; and government-imposed plans to make more massive cuts to our health service.
Last year, because of underfunding, a large Private Finance Initiative (PFI) debt, and high agency costs, Barts had the biggest deficit in NHS history at £134.9million. It is now in financial ‘special measures’ and is being directed to cut its deficit.
Waltham Forest is also part of the north-east London ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plan’ which aims to reduce a deficit across the area of £578m to a surplus of £37m by 2021. Despite the biggest population growth in London, and the pressure on our hospitals, the plan intends to proceed with
the closure of the A&E at King George Hospital in Ilford, with the loss of more than 270 acute beds.
Waltham Forest Council had such concerns about the plan that last month they decided not to sign up to it. If the plan goes ahead, the pressure on Whipps Cross will be enormous, and we will never get the improvements to our hospital that we all want and need.
Please join us in defending our NHS. We’ll be at the national demonstration on Saturday 4th March, starting from 12pm in Tavistock Square.
To find out more and get in touch with Waltham Forest Save Our NHS campaign group: