Report news now! Text pictures & video to 80360, starting message with WITNESS then leave a space
Hundreds join Whipps Cross demonstration
Nearly 500 hospital workers, campaigners and union members marched from Whipps Cross to Walthamstow town square today to rally against what they say are planned cuts to services at the hospital.
The protest was the third - and biggest - this week in response to concerns raised over how Barts Health Trust, which runs Whipps Cross, plans to tackle its £78m debt.
Len Hockey, branch secretary of Unison in Waltham Forest, who organised today’s demonstration, said: " Our aim is to ensure that the resolution of the trust’s financial problems isn’t to the impoverishment of the staff or the running down of our services.”
Union members and community groups called on Barts Health to cancel costly private finance initiatives which have led to a mutli-million pound hole in the trust's finances.
Alison Hill, 61, of Exeter Road, Walthamstow, said: “I think it’s scandalous. We end up paying more and the big companies are laughing all the way to the bank and more people are getting angry about that.
“People’s lives are being put at risk and I think it’s a disgrace.”
Valerie Phillips, a Royal College of Nursing union representative, claimed a proposed down-banding of some nurses to lower salaries showed Barts Health Trust had not learnt the lessons of Mid Stafffordshire.
She said: “The staff know the cuts are unsafe. They are potentially putting our patients at risk.”
James Stanley, 54, a driver for Whipps Cross' pathology department, described the atmosphere at the hospital as “awful” due to uncertainty over the future of services.
He said: "Every day you go in and there’s more news about wards shutting or people moving.”
Until this week the trust said there were no planned cuts to services, but speaking at a meeting of the Public Health and Health Delivery Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee on Wednesday night, a trust representative said costly agency staff will be reduced to save money.
A Barts spokeswoman said earlier this week that all areas of expenditure were being reviewed and savings would come from across the board and would only be signed off when it was clearly demonstrated that they would not affect patients' quality of care.
The spokeswoman said Barts Health, which is the largest hospitals trust in the country, has a higher staff to patient ratio than other trusts of a similar size, and that this could be reduced safely without cutting or removing services.
“Clinical care and patient safety is the priority at all times and we stress that there will be no reduction in staffing levels that compromises either,” she added.
Maternity and A&E services at Whipps will not be affected in the current services review.
See a video here: