Wanstead resident Charlotte Monro explains her involvement in the campaign to ensure the community has a strong voice in Whipps Cross Hospital’s redevelopment plans.
A new hospital is being proposed for Whipps Cross with a health ‘campus’ on the site. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We want a hospital designed to the best of standards, and which will meet our health needs of the future. But with the resource-starved NHS of today this won’t happen unless we all fight for it.
I have worked in the local health service as an occupational therapist since moving to Wanstead in the mid-1980s with my husband Stuart and our young daughter. For much of that time, I have also been a union rep and campaigned to protect services. Just 13 years ago Whipps Cross Hospital was fighting for its existence. Staff and the local community came together in the Save Whipps Cross campaign, gaining huge support. We succeeded. Then, again in 2013, the future of the hospital felt uncertain when, following the merger into Barts Health, we were sinking under devastating staff cuts accompanied by a climate of fear. I found myself sacked after speaking out over cuts in our stroke unit and reinstated after a long fight supported by colleagues, unions and health campaigns.
So, I was truly happy to be speaking at a recent packed public meeting about building a new Whipps Cross, also addressed by John Cryer MP and Alwen Williams, Chief Executive of Barts Health. The health campaign group Waltham Forest Save Our NHS organised the meeting to bring the potential new hospital to the attention of the public, and to set out some crucial concerns. Will there be enough beds and capacity for the fast-growing population? This is a must. Our campaign is challenging the initial proposal to provide fewer beds than there are currently. We want public funding – no more crippling PFI-type debts. There must be enough land for future expansion needs; key worker housing for health staff; and proper public and staff involvement and consultation.
Why is a new hospital so urgent now? The age and layout of the buildings cause constant difficulties for care and make the hospital much more expensive to run. I remember many a risk assessment on staff trundling laden cages across the uneven road and pavement surfaces, or doorways too narrow for modern hospital beds. But most of all, the daily problem of lack of space on nightingale-style wards. As you assist a patient from their bed to their chair or commode, it is quite an art to avoid the next patient sitting a few inches away, let alone privacy and infection control being compromised.
A new Whipps is not yet a certainty. But Barts Trust has been given the go-ahead to develop the next stage of planning, reiterated by the Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock, when he visited Whipps in March.