MPs raise concerns about Whipps Cross plans

John Cryer, Stella Creasy and Sir Iain Duncan Smith queried a number of development plans in a joint letter, reports Elizabeth Atkin

Proposals for new, taller hospital buildings would allow other parts of the Whipps Cross site to be used for housing (credit Barts Ryder Architecture)
A design option for new Whipps Cross Hospital buildings (Credit: Barts Ryder Architecture)

Waltham Forest’s three Members of Parliament have written a joint letter highlighting their concerns over plans for the new Whipps Cross Hospital. 

Leyton and Wanstead MP John Cryer, Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy and Chingford and Woodford Green MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith penned a letter in late May to Alastair Finney, redevelopment director for the project. 

In the letter, all three MPs said they “fundamentally disagreed” with the decision to cut the number of beds by around 50. 

They also wrote that “we believe the parking provision across the whole estate is inadequate and will detrimentally impact both staff and patients” – adding that “500 parking spaces for the hospital is inadequate for staff, visitors, elderly patients or those with mobility issues.” 

It also questioned the extent to which the proposed plans for Whipps Cross relied on “increased community facilities” when community provision had already been “drastically cut” – and highlighted constituent worries over the fate of the Margaret Centre, a palliative care unit. 

“In all discussions we have received assurance that the centre would remain in existence in the new hospital,” the letter continues. 

“However, redistributing the beds to acute medical wards will mean the centre will be in name only, and be effectively closed. In reality, the fewer beds in the new build will increase existing pressure on the remaining beds, which, as acute beds work out at a higher cost per patient, will result in enormous pressure on those ‘palliative beds.’ 

“Furthermore, the plan to redistribute its eleven beds throughout the hospital will mean there will be no concentration of palliative expertise. This decision seems to be a step backwards, not affording families the privacy and peace they require as their loved one nears the end of their life.” 

Redevelopment director Alastair Finney wrote a public reply to the letter addressing the MPs’ queries on 26th May. 

Of the proposed bed cuts, he wrote: “The proposed new hospital will have more clinical space than the current hospital, with brand new clinical departments, increased diagnostic and day case capacity and significantly more single inpatient rooms, improving patient experience, privacy and dignity.” 

And added of the much-discussed Margaret Centre: “The new hospital will continue to deliver high quality specialist palliative and end-of-life care. 

“We recognise that the Margaret Centre’s role in the delivery of care and its future generates considerable interest among local people. 

“That is why we are undertaking a clinically-led review of the model of care, including how we organise the provision of specialist palliative care and end-of-life care in the new Whipps Cross Hospital, all informed by the engagement and support of patients and local interest groups. 

“Your letter suggests there is a plan to redistribute palliative care beds to acute medical wards. Whilst a proposal along these lines emerged last year, no decision has been taken…” 

In an official statement to the Echo, Alastair said: “The engagement and involvement of local people is critical to the delivery of a new Whipps Cross Hospital and I very much welcome the continued support of our local [MPs] so that our shared vision can become a reality.” 

The joint letter from MPs was well-received by Action4Whipps, whose spokesperson Mary Burnett shared that the campaign group were “encouraged” by its message. 

“In February this year, we sent a letter to all north-east London MPs calling on them to call for more government funding to ensure we get a hospital that’s fit for our future,” a statement said. 

“1,941 local residents signed the letter; over 5,000 signed a petition handed in to Matt Hancock in 2020. 

“Constituents are as concerned as our MPs that the hospital should have more beds and that there should be no loss of services, like the Margaret Centre.”

To see the full letter from Waltham Forest’s MPs, head here. To read Alastair’s full response, head here