Future for Whipps


In the 11th of a series of articles looking at the redevelopment of Whipps Cross Hospital, Charlotte Monro asks readers to share their healthcare experiences, which could influence bed numbers in the new hospital

Funding has been approved for the next phase of work preparing the ground at Whipps for building a new hospital; £28m for a 500-space, multi-storey car park and access roads was announced in August. This is being hailed as a breakthrough after a rather long government silence. But there is still no announcement on what funding will be given to build the new Whipps, nor final confirmation that it can go ahead.

Whipps is part of the national New Hospitals Programme, announced in 2019, with £2.7bn of government funding. Whipps is one of eight ’pathfinder’ hospitals in this scheme and £350m is likely less than half the real cost, hence the pressure to build our new hospital too small and sell off too much of the land. A warning: as the new Royal Liverpool Hospital is finally opening – with fewer beds – the larger hospital it replaces was declared at full capacity under extreme pressure.

Whipps, like most of the NHS, is operating under pressure now. Barts Health Trust hospitals have had the highest volume of A&E attendances in England. Pressure needs to be designed out of the system, not into it. Under pressure, mistakes happen and safety can be compromised. A three-year-old child died when he was sent home from Whipps A&E on a night when the department was under such pressure on a shift described as ‘extremely challenging’ by the medical director.

The four-hour maximum wait in A&E before admission target is never met these days, and that is largely because beds are full. Systems are now in place for early discharge to free up beds. This can only work safely if community services and health and social care have the capacity to provide sufficient support. The reality is they often do not. ‘Elsie’, who was getting out and about before a fall and hospital admission, was discharged unable to get up to her bed; no rails installed. Awaiting a home assessment, she fell again and fractured her hip, and is now too frail to live at home. Adding indignity, she was told she should wee in her pads (she was not incontinent). This indignity, I fear, is being built into the system.

The Action 4 Whipps campaign has been informed by Barts Health of transformation programmes for health and care services within the Whipps catchment area, led by North East London Integrated Care System. They want to measure the impact on hospital admissions, length of stay and health, influencing the number of beds in the new hospital. From the off, we have been urging decisions on bed numbers to be grounded in the reality of what is happening in the community. Which is where readers can help. Please get in touch if you have experience of hospital discharges or community care we can feed back. And, of course, do get in touch if you want to be involved in our campaign to ensure the new hospital truly meets the needs of the future.

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

Author: Editor