We need more hospital beds

Whipps Cross University Hospital currently has 600 beds, but this could be reduced after its redevelopment
Whipps Cross University Hospital currently has 600 beds, but this could be reduced after its redevelopment (credit Barts Health NHS Trust)

Mary Burnett from Waltham Forest Save Our NHS on the battle over bed numbers at Whipps Cross

Back in 2016 a new local health plan called Transforming Services Together (TST) was launched. It ran to 277 pages, took two years to develop, and cost at least £3.49m in management consultancy fees.

The plan covered health services in Waltham Forest, Newham and Tower Hamlets, the boroughs that mainly use our local NHS hospital trust, Barts Health. TST described how better services could be provided with less money, despite a projected population growth equivalent to the size of a whole new borough. It went into lots of detail about how the extra 550 hospital beds needed locally by 2025/26 could be reduced to 240, partly by shifting care from hospital to the community.

TST later became part of a new plan for north-east London, the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP). Areas across England were required to produce such plans, showing how they could reduce costs and “demand” for our hospitals. Julia Simon, a senior person in the NHS, admitted at the time: “There’s a lot of blue-sky thinking… a lot of lies… about the financial position, benefits that will be delivered – it’s just a construct, not a reality”.

Early last year Barts Health NHS Trust – which runs Whipps Cross University Hospital – submitted an initial plan for rebuilding the hospital, said to have about 600 beds at present. It made several references to TST but an appendix cited 573 beds for the new hospital, with a loss of 67 more beds if the accident and emergency department at King George Hospital doesn’t close, cutting bed numbers to 506.

With other health campaign groups, Waltham Forest Save Our NHS wrote a detailed response to the TST in 2016. We raised concerns about bed numbers in the Whipps Cross plan and asked whether any of the aims from the plan had been achieved. We were told in response that it’s now out of date!

I think TST is an embarrassment now. It didn’t take into account rising life expectancy or more complex care being shifted into general practice. Getting enough community staff for end-of-life and integrated care scored as a ‘high risk’ but was needed to reduce the extra hospital beds.

Barts is now developing a new business case for the redevelopment of Whipps Cross, but without adequate funding we won’t get the hospital we need. Unless, that is, we fight for it.

A public meeting to hear people’s views on the redevelopment of Whipps Cross Hospital is being hosted by Barts Health NHS Trust tonight from 6pm-8pm at Leytonstone School and also on Friday 25th October, 11am- 2pm, at the Whipps Cross Hospital restaurant. For more information: