Future for Whipps


In the 10th of a series of articles looking at the redevelopment of Whipps Cross Hospital, Charlotte Monro explains her concerns about tower blocks overshadowing the new building

Planning permission for the Whipps redevelopment was approved by Waltham Forest Council on 24 November. It now goes back to the GLA for final approval. We urgently need the new hospital, but not one that will be on black alert with ambulances queuing as now. With the current design, any increase to 600 beds could only be achieved by pushing out essential facilities, like staff training and team office bases.

The major concern for me and many others is the land reserved for the hospital’s present and future needs is far too little, less than one-third of the site. In my 30 years working at Whipps, I have seen almost every green space disappear under buildings crammed in to meet growing demands. The plans approved (outline planning approval) include a residential tower block overshadowing and overlooking the east side of the hospital, with only a narrow internal roadway distance between them. Earlier plans had allocated this land to the hospital. What will this do for privacy for patients and sunlight?

Councillors from across the boroughs served by Whipps are now meeting in a joint health scrutiny committee set up to ensure the redevelopment of a new Whipps Cross Hospital meets their residents’ needs. Last month’s focus was on end of life and palliative care. “The way the physical environment feels – peace, space, privacy – is easier to achieve in designed spaces.” So advised Professor Heather Richardson, invited as an expert witness. Give the Margaret Centre this benefit, in the new hospital, said an Action for Whipps member, describing how highly the community values its end of life care, found in responses to our campaign out on the streets.

Whipps Cross clinical leads recognise the Margaret Centre as a hub that brings together specialist palliative care teams from across the community, hospital and centre, as we heard in a progress report on the review of palliative care.

Two Redbridge councillors on the committee spoke movingly of their own contrasting experiences between care in the Margaret Centre and in the community or a busy general ward: “worlds apart”. But when one asked the Barts Health Trust representative if he could assure the committee there would be an option to provide the Margaret Centre within the new Whipps development, he could not.

The scrutiny committee unanimously recommended an option for a discrete inpatient end of life care facility in the new hospital must be in the NEL CCG-led plans due in April. Formal public consultation on the Whipps redevelopment is a legal requirement, said councillors, and agreed a full discussion on this was a matter of urgency.

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