|Volume 50 Number 29, August 1, 2020||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
On Wednesday, July 22, the Waltham Forest Save Our NHS (WFSONHS) held a very lively and well-attended Zoom meeting to oppose the reduced number of beds being proposed for the new Whipps Cross hospital.
The meeting was chaired by Norma Dudley, a retired nurse and WFSONHS campaigner. In her opening remarks she welcomed the participants and praised the very high attendance - over 100 people. She said that while the WFSONHS and the local Waltham Forest community very much welcomed the plans for a much-needed new Whipps Cross hospital there were major concerns about the reductions of beds for the new hospital and concerns about its design and other issues.
The Chair introduced the first speaker, MP for Leyton and Wanstead John Cryer, who has fought for many years for improved health care in his constituency. John Cryer said he welcomed the plans for a new hospital but pointed out it had to be the right hospital - a hospital that would meet the healthcare needs of the community. He was very concerned about the reduction of beds proposed for the new hospital and said that in the past he had fought over the issue of lack of hospital beds proposed for the new Queens hospital to replace Oldchurch Hospital. He pointed out that the occupancy rate at Whipps Cross Hospital during the last two winters had been dangerously high at 100%, explaining that problems start for an occupancy above 80%, and above 90% is at a dangerous level, having an increasingly adverse effect on healthcare.
The next speaker was Charlotte Monro, who has been a union representative and WFSONHS campaigner, linking the campaign with local green organisations. Over many years she has been a tireless fighter for the NHS, campaigned to save Whipps Cross Hospital under threat of downgrading in 2007, and fought a successful campaign for re-instatement after being sacked by Barts NHS Trust for campaigning against cuts in health services in East London.
She gave an eloquent and well-informed speech about the crucial question of environmental issues and climate change in relation to the design and construction of the new hospital. She pointed out that its building and construction should meet the needs of climate reduction and be sustainable to meet the IPCC target to limit global warming to not more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
She gave the astonishing and shocking statistic that buildings account for 49% of carbon emissions in Britain and that air pollution kills 36,000 people every year. Therefore the construction of the new hospital and the building itself should not add to carbon emissions. The building should take into account where the building materials come from and use low carbon and recycled materials built to last, she explained. Consideration should be given to the shape and orientation of the building, and to the materials, such as those used for the windows, which determine the levels of warming and cooling. Solar panels should be installed, and cooling and heating installations should be from a fossil-free source. She instanced the new Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia, which had received four stars for its low rate of carbon emissions, as setting an example.
She pointed out that the new building is not just a hospital, but should be a centre for health and wellbeing, with proper consideration given to adequate bed spaces, as well as gardens and trees, which ease stress for patients and greatly aid their recovery. She ended by declaring, "It's our hospital!"
The last speaker was Mary Burnett, a WFSONHS campaigner. She condemned the 51 fewer beds given in the Barts Trust proposal for the new building and said that a plan for care in the community which is flawed and untested is being relied on by the Trust in its claim that fewer beds are needed, pointing out that the healthcare needs of the elderly would not actually be met. She explained that the new hospital is planned to become a centre of excellence in the care of frail and older people, but the Trust is expecting length of stay to be reduced, although these patients are much more likely to have multiple conditions and need longer in hospital.
She said that the care in the community programme "side steps" actual need in healthcare. She said that the corona pandemic had furthered the use of digital technology, which can work well for some, but will cause huge problems for the elderly and all those who do not have access to computers. She concluded by pointing out that fewer beds would cost lives and called on the WFSONHS to demand a hospital that fulfils the healthcare needs of the community.
After the speeches, there were many questions and proposals put forward in the open discussion. In answering questions on bed size reduction, Mary Burnett said that 576 beds were in use in 2018-9 in Whipps Cross Hospital according Barts Trust, but the Trust were now proposing 525 beds for the new hospital. On the issue of social care, she said that it was "being stripped to the bone", while Norma Dudley said it was "a pipe dream rather than reality".
Charlotte Monro said that a large proportion of the proposed £6 million investment in community services is allocated to "health coaches" who would give healthy living advice over the phone as a substitute for proper care, whereas the need is to invest in qualified health workers.
There was discussion on the necessity for adequate public transport to the hospital, which should be both green and adequate. On the issue of selling off hospital land, Norma Dudley said that NHS England was pushing Trusts into doing this; Charlotte Monro said that the pressure to sell the maximum land for housing and maximise housing density would mean that there would be less green space for patients.
The rest of the meeting was discussing the way forward. The Chair asked each of the speakers to give their thinking on this.
John Cryer thanked the WFSONHS for organising the meeting and said that the "care in the community" approach never worked in practice and what was needed was to fight for a hospital that would take into account of the growing population and growing healthcare demand.
Charlotte Monro praised the meeting in showing "the strength we have" and seeking to find ways of pulling the community together, and that the "strength of our voice is our community". She spoke of the need for local green groups to come together to take this up, and urged people to get in contact through the email address shared.
Mary Burnett said that the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, had said last June that the cuts in hospital beds "had gone too far" and said that therefore pressure should be put on Barts Trust to provide adequate bed size provisions. Not to do so would be "unforgivable and unsafe". She spoke of the need to "get a big campaign going".
The meeting ended with Norma Dudley calling for "a large community campaign throughout Waltham Forest". Charlotte Monro said that the tender for the architects was at present being decided on and therefore the Campaign would need to engage with them straight away: the new building was scheduled to be completed in 2026.
In her concluding remarks, Norma Dudley said that she was pleased so many people had come along. Although Covid-19 made action more difficult, we can put the pressure on saying "the time is now!" and "we need to get moving!", and asked everyone to keep in touch. All community groups, individuals and organisations were urged to keep in touch through the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.