The Whittington Hospital stands at the heart of our community – but now its beds, staff and buildings are under threat.

So it is time to step forward and join the thousands of protesters who will be marching on Saturday to save the hospital from cutbacks – and the Ham&High’s own Hands Off Our Whittington double decker bus will also be there.

Only Fools and Horses actor Roger Lloyd-Pack and social commentator Owen Jones will both join the army of ordinary people – many of whom have used the Whittington all their lives – for the long walk from Highbury Corner to the doors of the hospital.

Actors Tom Conti and Brooke Kinsella, comics Les Dennis and Terry Jones, singer Ms Dynamite and playwright Sir David Hare are also all backing the community as it fights to stop the proposed cuts to the hospital in Magdala Avenue, Archway.

Mr Lloyd-Pack, 69, of Kentish Town, who used the hospital when he broke his ankle and when he injured his head falling off his bike, said: “The Whittington is a vital resource. I am absolutely shocked that they are even considering selling off part of it. It’s a deplorable state of affairs.

“The Whittington was there in my hour of need and it has been there on several occasions for my family. Our National Health Service is the pride of Britain.”

The Whittington Hospital is planning to care for more elderly and chronically ill people at home and at community clinics – claiming this is the future of the NHS – and so hospital chiefs think they can afford to scrap 570 jobs and 60 beds.

The board says the hospital needs to be more “efficient” as, due to government cutbacks and rising drug and treatment costs, it needs to cut five per cent of its £270million budget every year.

Hospital bosses also want to sell off almost a third of the site – a section they claim is underused and deteriorating – in order to generate £17million, money that will be used to upgrade the maternity ward, create a new day treatment unit and build a new education centre.

But campaigners are furious at the prospect of staff and bed cuts, are frightened that patients will be discharged before they are ready and are angry that the hospital is even thinking of selling the family silver to raise cash.

Niomi McLean-Daley, 31, aka Ms Dynamite, who grew up in Archway, and whose brothers and sisters have all used the Whittington, said: “I understand times are tough financially but health is the last place we should ever be looking at making cuts. This is people’s lives we are talking about. It’s sad, it’s infuriating and it’s frustrating.”

Tom Conti, 71, of Hampstead, star of Shirley Valentine and The Dark Knight Rises, said: “Any reduction in public service is tragic. It would be an element of care we could lose.”

Monty Python Terry Jones, 71, of Highgate, said: “I think it’s disgraceful. The NHS is one of our great achievements and was celebrated at the Olympics. It’s just the government committing murder.”

And Les Dennis, of Highgate, who was recently treated at the Whittington for the norovirus, said: “At this time when there is so much illness around, it’s very important we hold on to health services as much as we can.

“I back the community on this. We have to make our voices heard.”

The Whittington’s controversial plans have been drawn up as part of its bid to become a foundation trust – an independently-run organisation akin to a private business.

The government has decided that all hospitals must become foundation trusts by April 2014 or they will be taken over by an existing foundation trust, such as the Royal Free Hospital or the Homerton Hospital

But campaigners are against forcing hospitals to act as private businesses.

Playwright Sir David Hare, who lives with his wife, the fashion designer Nicole Farhi, in Hampstead, said: “This country can well afford a universal health service with local access for local people. It’s why we pay tax.

“The Government is backing a campaign of pure scaremongering to suggest otherwise. Their campaign has to be resisted at every opportunity – and most of all at the Whittington, a much-loved and trusted hospital.”

The hospital is currently reviewing its plans, and delaying its foundation trust application, after NHS authorities asked for a more detailed financial breakdown of the strategy.

Whittington Health chairman Joe Liddane says he is still “committed” to the plans but campaigners believe this is their chance to get Mr Liddane and his colleagues to change their minds – and will be calling for them to do so on Saturday.

Former EastEnders actress and anti-knife crime campaigner Brooke Kinsella, whose 16-year-old brother Ben Kinsella was murdered in Holloway in 2008, is one of those who hopes the hospital will change their minds.

She said: “It’s where Ben died and staff tried their hardest to save him. I know they do a really good job.”

Hornsey Journal

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