Mary Burnett from Waltham Forest Save Our NHS on the latest discussions around the redevelopment of Whipps Cross
Nearly 100 people recently packed a meeting in Leytonstone to hear about the proposal to rebuild Whipps Cross Hospital.
The meeting was organised by Waltham Forest Save our NHS and the turnout shows just how much local people care about our hospital.
Speakers included Alwen Williams, chief executive of Barts Health NHS Trust; two campaigners; and local MP John Cryer, who got to the meeting following a late vote on Brexit in Westminster. Questions were answered by a panel including Alastair Finney, the redevelopment programme director, and Dr Anwar Khan, chair of Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
Everyone present at the meeting agreed a new hospital is needed – and is a huge opportunity. But we also have crucial concerns about how it will be funded and whether there will be enough beds for our growing population.
Initial plans showed there could be 83 fewer beds at Whipps Cross than we have now. This is despite it being recognised that in 15 years the population growth in north-east London will be equivalent to a whole new borough.
The rationale given for fewer beds is that we’ll have better healthcare in the community. For example, it is planned to offset extra beds needed by having more home births. One speaker said more home births would be “great if there are the midwives and the money needed” but that the recent collapse of Waltham Forest CCG’s neighbourhood midwives scheme showed there is a lack of money.
John Cryer made the point that we need more beds now, especially with a growing elderly population in the borough. A paramedic also told of the increased emergency calls over the last ten years, with huge cuts in social care and community mental health – and an A&E that is full to breaking point.
A member of the audience also asked whether healthcare in the community could safely replace the need for more hospital beds. Terry Day, who chaired the meeting, concluded: “On the basis of the answer there is perhaps no evidence, but I’m happy to be contradicted if someone can show us it.”
With the government squeeze on funding NHS buildings, trusts expected to sell off their land, and pressure to build new housing, there was concern there will be a rapid land sale at Whipps Cross – to the detriment of the new hospital. One speaker warned that we must have enough land to expand services needed in future and that “we need accommodation for NHS workers – including rented accommodation”.
Alwen Williams stressed that the position of Barts Health is that there will be no land sold until plans for the new hospital have been finalised and agreed. We, the public, need to campaign for a new hospital that really will provide what we need well into the future.
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