In the fifth of a series of articles looking at the redevelopment of Whipps Cross Hospital, Charlotte Monro reflects on a recent public meeting and expresses concern over plans for 51 fewer beds
Work towards the new Whipps Cross Hospital is advancing apace with the architect team in the process of being appointed. A public meeting hosted by Waltham Forest Save Our NHS (WFSONHS) at the end of July demonstrated our communities’ determination that the new hospital must be designed to meet our needs in the future. Alarm that the latest plans are for 51 fewer beds than now – despite the area having the fastest-growing population in London – has led to the launch of a community-wide campaign.
People found the meeting informative and inspiring. Enthusiastic discussion followed the three speakers. Residents spoke of the reality on the ground: 8,000 more people moving into new developments in Leabridge ward, which is already 10 GPs short and has no health centre. And housing for staff on the Whipps site; public transport – sufficient and green – and genuine consultation were all raised. People are eager to act.
John Cryer MP spoke first: “We can’t be in a position where we have got a nice new hospital but it cannot cope with the demand.” He has witnessed the “absolutely desperate” pressure on Whipps. “The hospital has been at 100% bed occupancy for the last two winters. Once you get to 90%, you start to compromise safety, you should not even go near 100%.” Sufficient beds is a critical issue, of which he has long experience, from the new Queen’s Hospital in Romford to the closure of Wanstead Hospital’s Heronwood and Galleon unit “which provided excellent rehab… Now, I am getting cases of people who cannot get the services in their homes that were promised when the wards closed. So, people go back needing more intense hospital care.”
The idea the new hospital needs fewer beds relies on assumptions that fewer people will need hospital treatment because of proposed new models of care in the community and improved organisation of hospital care. A close look at the strategy documents, said the next speaker Mary Burnette of WFSONHS, shows major flaws in the modelling used. For one, Waltham Forest has less to spend on both hospital and community health care than most of the boroughs to which it is compared. Decisions resting on untested assumptions could give us the same pressures and ambulance queues stretching into our future.
The final presentation from Green at Barts Health staff group called for the new Whipps to be the first UK net zero-carbon hospital, designed for the wellbeing of all who use it. With danger from climate change, anything less would be unforgivable. Natural light, views and ventilation, green spaces and nature, renewable clean energy from solar panels on roofs of both hospital and houses, all this is doable. But our guarantee will be the involvement throughout of community, staff and patients. And funding!