Future for Whipps

Acr46316289197504-61918© Ryder Architecture

In the eighth of a series of articles looking at the redevelopment of Whipps Cross Hospital, Charlotte Monro encourages residents to view and comment on the planning application, which has now been submitted

A new Whipps is desperately needed, but the proposals as they stand cannot meet the needs of our population. This is the conviction of a growing body of MPs, councillors, clinicians and the communities the hospital serves. More space needs to be reserved on the Whipps Cross site for healthcare, for present and future needs.

The plans show a residential tower block next to the hospital on land which earlier plans had reserved for the hospital itself. More beds are needed – not 51 fewer – and all the valued services we currently have should be retained and developed.

At least 10 north-east London MPs have expressed concerns. Redbridge Council’s own Health Scrutiny Committee has formally raised the bed reduction issue with Barts Health Trust, along with concerns over the loss of the Margaret Centre (a specialist palliative care unit) and inadequate public transport links and public consultation. “We are seriously concerned that forecasts make unsustainable assumptions about the developments in primary care, community healthcare, and social care… the assumption that integrated care systems will reduce [hospital] demand is not evidenced,” said Neil Zammett, chair of the committee.

John Cryer MP has spoken in Parliament: “[Hospital] rebuilds are welcome… but there are also concerns that a number of the projects imply reductions in bed numbers. Particularly after the pandemic, that seems to me… very misguided. Indeed, people were saying that even before the pandemic.”

Regarding The Margaret Centre, Iain Duncan Smith MP – along with other MPs and Neil Zammett – has made clear the outstanding care the unit provides. Subsuming it into general end-of-life care is not a viable option.

A group of us – including local people who have experienced the care the Margaret Centre provided for their loved ones – have met with senior nurses, clinical leads and Whipps redevelopment directors, who are reviewing the new palliative and end-of-life care plans. We explained why a specialist unit like the Margaret Centre must be provided in the new hospital, and why disbursing this care to side rooms on general wards will be an unacceptable loss of quality and access. We found empathy and appreciation of the value of the model of care from the clinicians, but also had the impression of pressure from government level against providing a specialist unit. We received no commitment it will be provided. We have to ensure it is, and call on your support. We agreed to meet again.

Whipps is our hospital. We cannot allow this once-in-a-generations opportunity to fall so short and leave our hospital care under the same pressures as today.

For more information and to comment on the planning application, click here and search for Application Reference Numbers: 211245 and 211244

Watch video testimonies on the Margaret Centre here.

Read the Redbrdige Scrutiny committee’s letter to Barts Health Trust here.