The Independent London Newspaper
24th April 2017

NEW JOURNAL COMMENT: They're all at sea, but hospital board could bring wave of changes by putting the politicians in their place

    Published: 28 February, 2013

    IS the Whittington Hospital crisis turning into an opportunity to change the relationship between the people who use the hospital and the people who run it? (click here for full story)

    There is little doubt the board went about things the wrong way.

    Tossing about in a storm of a funding shortage authored by central government, endlessly driven political reforms and a destructive target culture, the board must have felt positively sea-sick.

    In a desperate search for a way out, the board have put their faith in the creation of a Foundation Trust.  

    To take the next step of balancing the books, they conceived the partial “sell-off” plan that has aroused such bitter opposition.

    Implacably, the two sides face each other.

    Or do they?

    Yesterday (Wednesday) it looked as if the board had come to terms with the fact that they would not be able to bring about a Foundation Trust in the financial year ending next month. It is in this breathing space that their thoughts may be turning to a reappraisal of their shaky strategy.

    We hope so.

    An alliance is needed between the users of Whittington Hospital and the management, medical, admin and porters who keep the hospital going.

    Essentially, they have more in common than appears to be the case.

    Suspicious of the board, Shirley Franklin, chairwoman of the Hospital Coalition, wants the “sell-off” plan withdrawn before conciliatory talks can begin.

    In a sense, she is right – the field should be cleared first, to allow the birth of constructive discussions.

    Equally, the board has to put aside its interpretation of the rule-book in order to meet the Coalition half-way. 

    The spectre of a take-over – even by a private company – hangs over the hospital, or so the board fears, if it does not become a Foundation Trust.

    The Department of Health feel they possess the whip-hand here.

    But they don’t.

    For far too long, ever since the attempt to marketise the NHS began under Mrs Thatcher, this great public utility has been sleep-walking into a kind of oblivion.

    At long last the public are waking up.

    If they reach out, they may find a surprising number of allies in the hospital service.

    This alliance could revolutionise a health service and put politicians in their place.