Future for Whipps

palliatove-1A specialist palliative care room recently built by Ryder Architecture

In the seventh of a series of articles looking at the redevelopment of Whipps Cross Hospital, Charlotte Monro discusses her concerns over the fact no specialist palliative care centre is planned for the new building

As we live through this second wave of the pandemic, staff in our hospitals across east London are doing incredible work at all levels and – as throughout the country – are under immense pressure. The importance of our NHS to the whole of our society is one thing that is clear. It now needs the investment.

Action 4 Whipps has put a call out to all east London MPs to secure sufficient government funding for our local hospital. It would be a travesty if this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a new hospital yielded the same, unsafe pressures as there are currently. High bed occupancy directly impacts safety. Research into patients admitted to intensive care from April to June 2020 found the risk of dying was almost a fifth higher in ICUs where more than 85% of beds were occupied.

The drive to reduce beds in our new hospital and keep costs down feels, to me, like it is dictating the shape of our services. Julie Donovan’s piece about the Margaret Centre in January’s issue emphasised just what we are at risk of losing. This pioneering Whipps Cross service should be working right now with the architects on new specialist facilities to realise their vision for patient care. Specialist palliative care units are far from an ‘outmoded model’, as we have heard them described.

The photo here shows one of the rooms in just such a unit, recently built in Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary by our Whipps architects. Access to a patio from patient rooms so a bed can be taken outside has long been a dream of Margaret Centre staff. We deserve this here.

Barts Health has informed us that palliative care services will continue but be delivered differently. No specialist centre is planned. Hospice care at home will be increased, though few details are evident at present. Patients who need admitting will go to a single room wherever available in the hospital. This has not allayed our concerns. Single rooms will certainly offer greater privacy for patient and family than a curtained-off bed on the old general wards, but patients will not be in the care of specialist staff who know them and their family, as now in the Margaret Centre. Will a bed even be available at the time it is needed? Timeliness is fundamental… time is something these patients do not have.

In my view, there must now be real, meaningful and formal consultation with patients or their families, the local community, and staff who provide the service before decisions are taken, so the value and ethos of the service the Margaret Centre provides will not be lost, but can be enhanced. The right to be involved in decisions on such service change is set out in the NHS constitution.

If you feel the same, or if you have experience of the Margaret Centre or other palliative care services, please do get in touch.

To join the campaign or share views, email whipps.cross.campaign@gmail.com