THOUSANDS of protesters marched through the streets of north London on Saturday 27th February to express their dismay and outrage at plans to close the Accident and Emergency unit at Whittington Hospital.
It was organised by the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition and ended in a rally at the hospital in Highgate.
The hospital may have to merge its A&E with London’s Royal Free Hospital under NHS plans going out for consultation. The departments could be reorganised by the NHS as part of a city-wide review.
Shirley Frankin, from the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition, welcomed the “phenomenal support” – even though some hospital staff had been intimidates into not attending. She said: “We need our local A&E. People who have never been on a demonstration are here. It’s our hospital. We need those services here.”
The march was supported by local Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and former Health Secretary Frank Dobson.
Corbyn told the rally that the NHS is “the most civilised thing that exists in Britain”. And he added: “Millions have been spent here on the new wing, on doing up the A&E department, on the new wards. We have a top notch, first rate local hospital – and we’re going to keep it that way!”
Dobson spoke of the “dickheads who have decided that they could save money by closing the A&E department here and then building clinics all over to replace it.
“But the clinics haven’t been built and haven’t been approved, even financially. This is a lunatic idea.”
NHS London has revealed plans for more than 100 polyclinics across the capital over the next five years, which, they say, will offer a wider range of services in one place.
Another A&E facing closure is Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup in the London Borough of Bexley, even though A&E services in Bexley and neighbouring Bromley and Greenwich have been “dangerous and deadly” according to a local health campaigner.
John Hemming-Clark, leader of Independents to Save Queen Mary’s Hospital, claims the situation at Queen Mary’s Sidcup A&E department has been “dire and totally unacceptable” as staff struggled to cope with emergencies diverted from other hospitals.
When A&E at the Princess Royal University Hospital (PRU), Farnborough, closed last Thursday because of a norovirus outbreak, ambulances diverted to Queen Mary’s where the A&E remained open all night. Staff from Farnborough had to be drafted in to help.
Hemming-Clark claims on Monday, A&E at Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), Woolwich, was so overrun it had ambulances queuing up, so again patients were diverted to Queen Mary’s.
He claims at one point, five stretchered patients were lined up in Queen Mary’s corridors.
Under A Picture of Health plans, Sidcup’s A&E will close by the end of this year, but Hemming-Clark claims the PRU and QEH will not be able to cope. He said: “When it closes, the events of the past few days prove deaths will result.”
Hemming-Clark says if that happens, his party will take legal action against the South London Healthcare Trust “for a dereliction in its duty of care towards its patients”.