Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

'Outline' of new Whipps Cross Hospital agreed

Councillors unanimously agreed to sell more than half the hospital's land for housing

Hero for 'Outline' of new Whipps Cross Hospital agreed
Campaigners outside the town hall before the meeting last night (credit: Simon Deville)
By Victoria Munro 25 November 2021

Plans to rebuild Whipps Cross on a smaller area and sell more than half its current land for housing were agreed last night.

After the planning committee unanimously approved the “outline” for the new hospital and up to 1,500 homes, campaigners said they were “disappointed, saddened and concerned”.

At a rally before the meeting, they argued selling off the bulk of the land was an irreversible mistake and was why some services in the current hospital may move elsewhere.

In the meeting, Waltham Forest Council’s principal planner Matt Duigan told the committee the hospital was “developed in a piece-meal fashion” and its layout was “inefficient” - one of many issues the rebuild hopes to fix.

However, Robert Gay from the Waltham Forest Civic Society, told councillors that if they agreed to sell off NHS land for housing “then in 30 years time, your successors will be cursing you”. 

Most concerning to health campaigners was the potential loss of five services: the Margaret Centre, Connaught Day Hospital, Tomswood Unit, Woodlands Day Unit and Pine Lodge.

These respectively provide end-of-life care, care for elderly and frail patients, rehabilitation, treatment for blood-related diseases and a psychiatric liaison for patients with mental health needs. 

Current plans suggest these services could either move elsewhere in east London or be dotted around the new hospital, rather than located in a discrete unit.

Concerned speaker Adrian Stannard told councillors: “These five services are integral to and supportive of the clinical function of the hospital. 

“If there’s no space for them in the new hospital, it will not be a replacement, it will represent a reduction in services.”

The hospital redevelopment director, Alastair Finney said that, regardless of disagreements about how to proceed, he hoped the “case for a new hospital is agreed and understood by all”.

He told the meeting: “We have 3,500 staff who do their best, day in and day out, in the face of crumbling infrastructure and badly laid-out departments. 

“Consolidating the building onto a much smaller footprint gives the opportunity… of locating the new hospital at the heart of a new neighbourhood.”

Ultimately, many of the finer details of the new hospital have yet to be decided and a more detailed application will come before councillors again at a later date.

Work on the new hospital is due to start next year and finish in 2026, with the new hospital finally becoming operational the following year.

Work on the new homes, some of which will be located in the iconic red-brick buildings most associated with the hospital, is expected to start in 2027 and end in 2038.

Despite the decision, campaigners who spoke at the meeting all insisted that their fight over the new hospital is far from over.

Read the full story of last night’s meeting on the front page of the next Waltham Forest Echo, published on 1st December.

On 26th November, following the original publication of this article, a spokesperson from Barts Health NHS Trust commented on the five services mentioned by campaigners.

Regarding the end-of-life care currently provided by the Margaret Centre, they explained the trust has "yet to decide how [it] will organise and configure the service".

It expects to have decided by April next year "whether the unit itself would remain on the Whipps Cross site or be re-provided elsewhere in Waltham Forest".

They added: "There will be no loss of the services currently provided in the Connaught Day Centre. The new hospital will continue to provide outpatient services for older people."

They said that Pine Lodge and Tomswood Unit are not "hospital services", while the Woodlands Day Unit falls "outside of the boundaries of [the] planning applications".