Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Outrage after Whipps bosses insist no need to consult on new hospital

Whipps Cross bosses insist there will be no "substantial change" to health services

Hero for Outrage after Whipps bosses insist no need to consult on new hospital
A CGI of what the new hospital could look like (credit: Barts Ryder Architecture)

Whipps Cross bosses provoked outrage last night by revealing they do not plan to formally consult on detailed designs for the new hospital.

The exact size and contents of the hospital is still subject to ongoing debate between Barts Health NHS Trust - which runs Whipps Cross - and the government.

The trust, which has held "hundreds" of informal engagement meetings with residents, insists a consultation will not be necessary because there are "no plans for a significant service change".

At a joint committee set up to let neighbouring councils scrutinise the project, Redbridge councillors insisted a consultation must take place, to rounds of applause from watching health campaigners.

At the meeting on 7th December, Redbridge councillor Beverly Brewer cited regulations which state councils must be consulted on any  “substantial variations” to the health service.

She told NHS bosses: “I was elected to represent residents and I am absolutely going to make sure that I do that. You don't have the choice, it is a must, I read out those regulations to you, it’s not for you to interpret at the end of the day.

“You, and we, know there are substantial changes to services, be it palliative or renal services, so this formal consultation must take place. 

These regulations exist to ensure that our residents are protected in these circumstances, I remain very, very concerned with your response.”

Incoming chief executive at Whipps Cross, Ralph Coulbeck, responded that plans had not "entered the territory where we would consider it being a substantial change, because it would be the same provision in the future".

He added that informal public engagement has been “significant” and that there have been “hundreds” of meetings with members of the public.

To applause from campaigners, Redbridge councillor Judith Garfield called this answer unacceptable given the “huge” changes expected.

Widespread concerns have been raised over whether the number of beds in the new hospital will meet demand and whether dedicated services for end-of-life care, the elderly or mentally ill will be kept on-site.

Committee chair, Waltham Forest’s Richard Sweden warned Whipps: “If you end up having to do a consultation, it’s better doing one sooner rather than later, because we don’t want one to delay the new hospital.”

Last month, Waltham Forest Council's planning committee approved “outline” plans to sell more than half the hospital site for development into 1,500 homes.

Although an £870million “business case” for the new hospital has been passed to the Government, limited detail about the proposal is publicly available.

Planning documents do indicate the hospital will contain 85,000sqm of space across “four and ten storeys”.

Following the original publication of this article, a spokesperson from Barts Trust added that the trust is "committed" to engaging with patients and the public.

They said: "At this stage of the project we do not believe a formal public consultation is appropriate, because our health and care strategy is not proposing major service changes.

"The new hospital will have much the same range of clinical services as the current one, although we anticipate more patients will have speedier access to the most modern treatments.

"We will keep this position under review as we develop our plans in more detail, working closely with our partners across north east London, and will continue to engage with the public and its representatives on this important issue.”