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Islington Tribune - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 27 November 2009
Is A and E closure the price to pay for hospital upgrade?

• ISLINGTON Pensioners’ Forum (IPF) wishes to join in the protest against the reduction of Whittington Hospital’s services or its amalgamation with the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. Since elderly people comprise a high percentage of NHS patients, their views merit attention.
It is shocking that the public has only learned about discussions concerning this matter from a document leaked to the local press. Why did not NHS Islington inform its residents beforehand about significant discussions affecting large numbers of local people, to seek their views before any decisions would be taken? Was NHS Islington as indifferent to local feelings on this as it appears to be over the retention and modernisation of Finsbury Health Centre? While the government has stated that more power should be devolved to communities, this behaviour by an unelected body is conspicuously undemocratic.
The population of Islington is expected to rise considerably during the next few years, as also the proportion of elderly people likely to require medical services. The demands on our hospital may therefore be expected to increase, so that a downgrading of its services is totally inappropriate.
I have read that the Whittington’s A and E department sees around 80,000 patients annually. If it were to be closed, what assurance is there that University College London Hospital, the Royal Free or Homerton could cope with the increased demand?
How far is the Whittington’s dire debt situation due to the use of a private finance initiative to subsidise its recent modernisation and extension? How was it that it chose to take on such a huge loan without being sure of its obligation to repay the debt’s interest annually without endangering the provision of its present services? What proportion of its present annual expenditure must be paid in interest on this debt?
We trust that these matters will be urgently debated by the Local Involvement Network, to which several members of IPF belong. In the meantime, IPF insists that the Whittington needs to retain its A and E and all other services essential to this borough, particularly to its older residents. We are grateful to Dr Wendy Savage, co-chair of Keep our NHS Public, for deploring the increasing privatisation of the NHS, which is responsible for many of its financial problems.
Angela Sinclair
Health representative on Islington Pensioners’ Forum Committee

• I AM writing on behalf of Labour councillors and the local Labour Party to pledge our support for the campaign to save services at the Whittington Hospital, which is located in Junction ward.
In the last few years of the Tory government, when swingeing cuts were being made to public services, we feared we would be faced with the choice of closing Bart’s or the Whittington. Luckily for those who rely on the NHS, a Labour government was elected and both hospitals were not only saved but had massive investment.
The Whittington alone had more than £30million, which turned it into an excellent hospital with modern facilities, particularly in the intensive care unit and paediatric department.
It is a much-loved and much-used hospital. One of my children was born there, and my whole family has been there at one time or another for minor surgery or to the accident and emergency unit. The A and E is a vital facility for our area.
Archway is a major transport hub, with 12 buses going through it (four of them giving a 24-hour service), an Underground station and a nearby overground railway station.
I have nothing against the Royal Free Hospital, but for people living on our side of Hampstead Heath it is a long (in terms of time) and arduous journey, with few transport links: one bus, the C11, the Northern Line which involves changing at Camden Town, and the North London overground line, which is due to be closed for refurbishment on many occasions.
Please join the campaign by going to
Cllr Janet Burgess
Labour, Junction ward

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Islington Tribune, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to Deadline for letters is midday Wednesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld . Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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