Former patients back Whittington Hospital campaign as thousands get ready for protest march

Thursday, 25th February 2010


Published: 25 February 2010

YOUR hospital needs you!

Patients who owe their lives to the Whittington have urged New Journal readers to stand up and be counted at a day of protest against plans to axe the Highgate ­hospital’s accident and emergency department.
Police are expecting a massive turnout on ­Saturday and have already ordered the ­closure of Holloway Road northbound from Highbury Corner up to the Whittington.

Tens of thousands of families will be affected by the proposals and the threat has outraged potential patients, many who have not campaigned before but know their lives may one day depend on the A&E remaining open.

Just ask identical twins Luke and Josh Ames Blackaby, from Highgate, who were diagnosed with chronic ­infantile asthma at birth. Over three years, they were repeatedly rushed through the doors of the Whittington’s casualty – often in the middle of night. Now 15, they have overcome their respir­atory illness and developed into a pair of “top end” athletes – one plays county-level rugby and the other is a cross-­country runner for Shaftesbury Barnet ­Harriers Athletics Club.

Their proud father, Oli, said: “They could have died if it hadn’t been for the Whittington. We have been intermittent visitors ever since – the twins have launched themselves off ladders with the inevitable blood, to scratched retinas for our daughter Rose, and many sports injuries. We hope as many people as possible will join the march.”

Dozens of other patients have contacted the New Journal with similar stories of how the Whittington saved their lives.
North London hospitals are being dismantled as part of widespread changes triggered by a dramatic £500million cut in NHS funding. The North Central London sector – a body of unelected officials overseeing the changes – have unveiled seven “scenarios” that include stripping the Whittington of its A&E, intensive care and maternity unit, where scores of babies are born every month.

In a Parliamentary debate on Tuesday, Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn said: “Many of us find these decisions unpalatable and wrong, but above all we have great difficulty bringing to account the people who are making those plans and decisions.”

The changes would mean tens of thousands of patients facing longer journeys to the Royal Free in Hampstead. And union leaders have warned that hundreds of jobs will be axed.

Campaigners are calling for patients who have been saved by the A&E to contact the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition. The campaign group has been working overtime this week, ­collecting signatures for petitions, leafleting and holding round-the-clock talks with police and council officials to make sure Saturday’s protest goes to plan. DWHC chairwoman Shirley Franklin said: “Please demonstrate with us and tell the NHS bosses and the government that this is our hospital, our NHS, our A&E and they mustn’t close any of it.”

The protest leaves Highbury Corner at midday to a rally with speeches outside the Whittington.

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