Monday, March 04, 2013

Save the Whittington

The big issue in the Junction ward by-election is the campaign to save the Whittington Hospital, and their plans for a major sell off of land and reduction in beds, see here.
On Wednesday 23 January 2013, the Whittington Health Trust Board agreed an estates strategy that will see more services provided in health centres across Haringey and Islington. The strategy responds to the health trends of our local population. More people are receiving healthcare in their homes, health centres and GP surgeries. Technology will increasingly support more care, especially for people with long term conditions. The frail elderly are often best cared for in community settings. Over time, the dependency on hospital wards will decrease, which will see some staff relocate to health centres.
You could expect, if clinical need was the driver of the change, that they would roll out the community service, and then reduce beds and staff accomodation based on proven reduced need. This press release from a local MP suggests this is at least nominally the case:
Following a meeting with Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr David Winskill, the Whittington Hospital has offered assurances that no services will be lost during their reorganization until equal or better replacement services are in place.
It is more likely, that the below quote from another of their leaflets is the real driver(PDF):
All hospitals are obliged to become Foundation Trusts or risk acquisition by other Foundation Trusts – our investment plans are a major part of our effort to become a Foundation Trust.
This is the reality, and why the hospital is threatened (again), and will be (again) even if the campaign succeeds. Hospitals forced to behave like businesses rather than providing a needs based service must start looking at the value of their estate as a priority. The position of the Socialist Party is clear: we will not campaign for election based on supporting any given set of reforms: but we do support the struggle of workers to defend their living standards and services (indeed, Unite The Union is at the forefront of the Whittington Campaign). We will not seek to take over the campaign like so many other organisations do. It's too easy for a Councillor or an MP to campaign to Save our Hospital/School/Police Station, because they can't lose. If the campaign succeeds it was because of them, if it fails it was despite their valliant efforts. If elected to council, our delegate will vote, as instructed, in the interests of the workers, but we won't kid on that we will be the saviors of them. Our election promise is to fight for the common ownership of the wealth of the world so that our health needs can be met directly without commercial consideration. That is the real issue behind the repeated campaigns to "Save the Whittington", as government funds are squeezed by falling commercial profits (and thus reduced tax take) they seek to cut or commercialise the costs of health care.

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