Published: 9 July, 2013
by TOM FOOT
WHITTINGTON bosses today (Tuesday) confirmed there was now “no plans to close beds” or make “significant reductions” in the permanent workforce over the next five years as the NHS trust unveiled a dramatic overhaul of its earlier plans.
The Grade II listed Jenner building and the newly built Whittington Education Centre – which were due to be sold under a plan agreed in January – will now not be put up for sale.
The hospital's towering Victorian nursing accommodation blocks – with 70 rooms – remain earmarked for disposal with the trust saying the process will take some time and not affect current student nurses who will move to another building in Hornsey. The Whittington board will begin talks with Islington Council about whether housing could be built on the site.
Births at the hospital will not be capped at 4000 as had previously been agreed and the maternity unit will now be expanded with a £10 million refurbishment.
The original plan to axe 570 permanent staff posts – including 200 nurses – and halve the number of beds at the hospital has been completely withdrawn.
In a statement, the hospital said they were “committed to keeping the reduction in permanent staff to the absolute minimum and will use our turnover and vacancy rate to manage the workforce. We will start to reduce the numbers of agency staff we use. ”
Whittington Health staff, director of organisational development Jo Ridgway, said: “Over the next few months, we will be reviewing the skills mix of our staff, but we envisage no significant reduction to our permanent staff over the next five years.”
The decisive u-turn follows a three month listening exercise triggered by widespread outcry at an “estates strategy” that was agreed in January by the board without consultation with the public, politicians or even its own governors. A Government imposed deadline of April 2014 for the hospital to achieve Foundation Trust status has also been scrapped allowing the hospital more time to consider its future less drastically.
The trust has also revised its clinical strategy – to be published later this month – which the board said “reaffirms” their original intentions to push care out of the hospital and patients' homes or nearby health centres.
The Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition, which organised a huge march in protest at the plans in January, has strongly condemned the policy and has warned that further cuts could follow today's announcement.
On the concept moving care closer to home, Dr Greg Battle, Whittington Health’s medical director for integrated care and a Holloway GP, said: “I would like to reassure everyone that medical advances mean there has been a reduction in lengths of stay in hospital and the evidence is that patients recover much better when they are at home.”
Regarding hospital beds, we have reviewed our bed requirements and will retain the overall number of beds while they are needed and commissioned - to ensure patients are treated within national standards and to meet future needs.”
Medical Director Dr Martin Kuper said no patients would be discharged from the hospital until they were well enough to do so but that new systems were in place to “enhance” the recovery process. This would allow the hospital to discharge patients sooner than before, he said.
More details about the Whittington's changes can be found in the Trust’s briefing on its revised plans and at www.whittington.nhs.uk/ourfuture