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Whittington Hospital Rally

Friday, March 15, 2013

GMB Members from Islington & Haringey speak up & march to defend the Whittington Hospital in Archway, North London.

Many of my GMB branch members are very worried about the plans to close the Accident and Emergency Service, maternity beds and elderly care beds, as they have depended on them for their lives.

GMB members have spoken out against the move against Whittington hospital (see below) and hundreds of them will be on the march and rally this Saturday at:

11.30 a.m.






At 11.30 a.m. on Saturday 16th March the Islington Haringey GMB Trades Union branch marched with the community, residents, patients, doctors, nurses and other hospital staff to save the Whittington Hospital.

George Sharkey, Islington Haringey GMB Branch Secretary said, “The hospital will cease to exist in its current form if the plans to cut 500 staff and 60 beds go ahead.  Many of my GMB branch members are very worried about the plans to close the Accident and Emergency Service, maternity beds and elderly care beds, as they have depended on them for their lives.  When ordinary GMB members said we need to do something to support the campaign to save the Whittington I agreed that we needed to be there to support our members AND the community.  I’m proud to be marching along with other GMB members and residents in the community.  Being a branch secretary is not just about looking after our members at work, it is also about campaigning for our members and the communities they live in. One GMB member has told me how important the Whittington has been for her, her daughter and for her elderly mother.”

GMB member Maria Jennings who lives close to the Whittington off Archway Road said, “I used the Whittington hospital A&E for my daughter Magdalena after she hit her head at the bottom of the swimming pool at Park Road in Crouch End. I also used the hospital, as mums do, when she was admitted to the children’s ward with severe fever and vomiting and she also received outpatient care in relation to some issues with her heart. 

My elderly mother Emilia 89 received excellent on the Dorothy Warren ward that I think has probably saved her life.  The care was excellent throughout.

I also used the Whittington myself when it was starved of funds in the 1990s and I had to wait a very long time to get seen, waiting two years to get an operation because the Tory government had long waiting lists for the NHS.  I suffered a lot whilst waiting for my operation and I think it’s wrong that people had to do that then.  I hope people will remember that all of the problems started when so called professional managers were brought in to run the NHS and lots of doctors and nurses were sacked.  We were told ‘why should doctors and nurses be bothering with cleaners and hospital meals’. 

When I went in for my operation the ward was not being cleaned and the nurses weren’t allowed to make the private cleaners clean and when the cleaners were challenged by the patients they were ignored.  The cleaning was done by the patients who had recovered after their operations and by their relatives.  We need to make sure this never happens again and that we get other to hospitals to learn from what the Whittington is doing so well now – it has some of the lowest mortality rates in the country because it has a slightly higher nurse to patient ratio. We must not go back to what it was.

When I heard about the march I decided that I wanted to be there too.  We’re proud to be here with our historic banner from the Garment and Tailor Workers’ Union which was historically such an important industry in the area. 

Paul Hayes, London Regional Secretary, said, “It was trade union members who fought for to get the National Health Service established in 1948 and it is only right that GMB members are on the march with people in the community today. They are fighting to save their NHS hospital. It belongs to them. That’s what GMB values are about. It cannot be right that the drive for Foundation Trust status should jeopardise the Whittington hospital itself. ”


Contact: Tony Warr, GMB Senior Organiser on 07974 or GMB Press Office 07974 251823 or 020 7391 6755 for interviews with the above GMB members.

Notes to editors

1 Islington Tribune Professor John Yudkin, of Huddlestone Road, Tufnell Park, a retired doctor who worked at the Whittington for 30 years, and whose father was a Whittington consultant for 20 years before him, fears community care services will struggle. He said: “I’m not convinced that the things that delay people’s discharge and cause ‘bed blocking’ can be treated with community care. They need to test this. “No improvement in community services, whether GPs, district nurses or home helps, is likely to solve the problem of ‘bed blockers’.” Along with the loss of nearly half the site, the Whittington’s strategy – which has already been rubber-stamped by the board – would see the number of adult beds fall from 360 to 300, while 500 of its 4,000 staff would be cut. Two of the three wards that care for older people, Cloudesley and Meyrick, are earmarked for closure. Professor Yudkin finds it worrying that the Whittington is discussing closing beds when occupancy averaged 93 per cent last year. He added: “The idea that this 93 per cent bed occupancy can be managed on 60 less beds seems ludicrous.”

2 Islington Tribune Health bosses unveiled plans this week to dramatically reduce funding to 16 GP practices in Camden by 25-40 per cent. Doctors have told the Tribune that the changes will lead to redundancies and surgery closures that will have a “profound effect” on around 100,000 patients. The Whittington says GPs can provide services they currently run from the Highgate hospital site. But Dr Geoff Wong, a GP at Daleham Gardens Surgery since 1999, Belsize, said: “Anything they want to push into primary care from hospitals is going to be affected by these changes.  Half of patient care in Camden is provided by practices that are going to lose staff under these changes. Will I be able to provide additional services? Well there is only 24 hours in the day. How can I do the additional clinics? “The idea of pushing more services onto under-staffed surgeries is frankly asking for trouble. This is what ­happened at Mid Staffs and this is what is happening and there is no acknowledgement of that.”

3 Islington Tribune NHS owned Block A in the “Highgate Wing” in Dartmouth Park Hill was sold for £3,520,000 to Offshore JJ Chester, regist­ered in St Helier, Jersey. According to company files, the business outsourcing and recruitment giant Capita was one of the signatories on the company’s incorporation documents in November 2011. The Whittington NHS Trust had transferred the building to Camden’s mental health trust, which had sold the building. The Whittington hospital has been renting back the space for around £400,000 a year, which is a yield (or interest generated) of 11.36%.

4 GMB website GMB union began as the Gas Workers and General Union was formed in March 1889 in East London by one of the greatest pioneers of the Labour movement, Will Thorne, who was born in Birmingham in 1857. He lived in great poverty and began his working life in a brickworks at the age of 6.  Asked why he had dedicated his life to the labour and trade union movement GMB founder Will Thorne explained, "There is a world of freedom, beauty and equality to gain, where everyone will have an opportunity to express the best that is in them for the benefit of all, making the world a place more to our heart's desire and the better to dwell in."  These principles guide GMB today.

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