MP for Hornsey and Wood Green
Labour’s campaign to save the Whittington accident and emergency was left in tatters it emerged that a top Labour politician said that closing local A&E and maternity departments was “the right thing to do.”
Liberal Democrat candidate Lynne Featherstone has condemned the reported remarks by Labour Health Secretary Andy Burnham, and has said the revelation unmasks local Labour claims that they back the campaign to save the Whittington A&E.
In reality, Mr Burnham’s remarks show that it is Labour that is threatening these vital services.
Lynne Featherstone, who has campaigned tirelessly against the closure for the past six months, comments:
“These comments from the Labour minister in charge of our Health Service unmask the grim reality of Labour’s policies. This is what is threatening our local A&E at the Whittington.
“Local Labour politicians can hide behind a local campaign, just as they did with the closure of our Post Offices. The truth is that Labour cannot be relied on to fight for these vital local services.”
I have so many examples of when my family has needed an A&E hospital close at hand and frankly not for trivial reasons.
My eldest son stumbled, aged 5, into a rose branch which resulted in a deep cut millimetres from his eye – we rushed him to the Whittington A&E department and they dealt within him within minutes of this serious accident. He was terrified so having an A&E close at hand made a huge difference.
My husband is a diabetic and has been taken to the A&E department unconscious on several occasions over many years. He recently had a severe fit and the ambulance arrived within 5-10 minutes only because it was at the Whittington Hospital A&E having delivered a patient there. The ambulance was based in Enfield so imagine how long we would have waited had it not been there. It took almost an hour to completely revive him, including the use of oxygen.
I am very very unhappy to think we might not have a nearby A&E department. I have also been rushed to A&E at the Whittington with a severe allergic reaction and breathing difficulties about 10 years ago. I will never forget the feeling of distress and panic and the fact that we arrived at the hospital within minutes was hugely important. If we then factor in all the accidents and broken bones that my children and my friend’s and neighbour’s children have experienced as they grow up, it simply beggars belief that this vital hospital department is under threat.
Are they totally insane?
Oscar, our first baby, was born at UCLH beginning of December.
As new parents, you rely strongly on a visit from the mid-wife to make sure all is well with the little one.
We waited 3 long days and nobody came to see us despite numerous phone calls to all services concerned.
We did not sleep for 3 days and Oscar cried at night and during the day while he required to be breastfed non-stop. We felt helpless and did not understand what was going on. Every day we were hopeful that someone might visit us, but this did not happen. One evening, we’d had enough and decided to take our baby to Whittington A&E.
We were right to be concerned as Oscar had lost considerable weight and had turned yellow (beginning of jaundice).
Someone saw us around 2am and Oscar was admitted to hospital for 4 days.
We will always be grateful to the Whittington and especially to the A&E. This was the ONLY service that was willing to have a look at what was wrong with Oscar. Nobody else cared at the time.
Liberal Democrat Leader, Nick Clegg, has backed the campaign to stop closure of the Whittington A&E. The pledge of support comes in the same week as Lynne Featherstone presents local peoples’ personal stories to the Health Minister about their experiences of the Whittington A&E to demonstrate just why local residents need the Whittington A&E to stay open, and to demand that the Government halts the threat.
The Liberal Democrat MP presented Mike O’Brien, Minster for Health, with a collection of over 200 personal stories, written by local residents, who are horrified by the threat to the Archway hospital.
The Liberal Democrats are committed to stopping this process dead in its tracks. They will replace health quangos with directly elected health boards, accountable to local residents for the decisions they make.
Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat Leader, says:
“I support the campaign to save Whittington A&E. Decisions about local services should be taken by locally accountable bodies. I would not let North London Central NHS close this A&E. I oppose all proposals made by unaccountable bureaucrats which threaten local services.”
Lynne Featherstone MP comments:
“I welcome Nick’s unequivocal support of this campaign. But thanks also to the many personal and moving stories sent to me by local
residents, I feel we’ve made a powerful case for why the Whittington needs to stay open.
“This is about real people’s lives not paper solutions.
“The many intimate and touching stories really help show why having a hospital close-by is so vital. Many residents praise the hard working staff at the Whittington, who have helped them deal with really difficult and life-altering situations.
“I hope this will help tip the balance, and send a strong message to the Government from the people of Hornsey and Wood Green – hands off our A&E!”
I have used Whittington A&E since 1983, when my son was born. He had bronchial asthma and we often had to rush there when he was two or three years old. It’s hard to put into words how reassuring it was to know that he would be seen by a doctor after he’d been unable to stop coughing for hours. Recently he used it again when he needed stitches in his hand on Christmas Eve: he was given antibiotics and a tetanus shot and his hand is healing well. I can’t believe that such a valuable institution could face closure.
When my son was approximately 6 months old he had a bad cough and he produced some spots of blood as he was coughing. I took him to my GP who referred me immediately to the A & E at the Whittington.
As this is my local hospital my child was born there so I was familiar with the place and I felt comfortable going there. We drove ourselves to the hospital. The journey took no more than 10 mins which meant I did not have to worry for an unnecessarily long time.
We were seen quite quickly and reassured that the problem was not serious and were home within approx 3 hours. I feel so lucky to live near to a hospital with an A & E facilty.
I have used the A & E at the North Mid for my child also as he had “pulled elbow” but the only reason I used this hospital was because we were shopping nearby at Ikea. It would take us at least 20 mins to get to the North Mid from my home, this would be massively increased if there were traffic on the very busy A10.
I actually feel a real sense of security being so close to the A & E at the Whittington, and would be very concerned if it were to close or run under reduced services.
A few years ago my nephew sliced the top off his finger with an electric planer [used to plane wood]. I wrapped his finger in a towel and rushed him to The Whittington A & E Dept. We had to wait a little while as it was very busy but when he was seen, he was taken to the ward and had the operation that night. They did a marvellous job, and although his finger is slightly short, he is still able to be a cabinet maker and hardly anyone notices.
If we had to have travelled further, he might have lost the use of his finger.
My story re the Whittington is that last year my two year old granddaughter started limping and it is was discovered that she had an infection in the bone in her leg. The diagnosis took a week to sort out and during that time she had to stay in the hospital and be sedated three times to have scans to try and work out what was wrong. the staff were fantastic and if she had not received the care and attention that she did she could have lost her leg. She had to be treated with intravenous antibiotics daily for six weeks. This meant a trip to the Whittington daily for my daughter with her daughter and a four month old baby.
The nearest other A&E is the Royal Free, which is miles away & very difficult to get to, especially for older people (my wife & I are over 60 and my neighbour 89), even by ambulance (rarely available) or car, due to multitude of intervening “sleeping policemen”. Direct public transport is non-existent.
1. About 10 years ago, my wife badly lacerated her arms when a glass door shattered. As waiting an unspecified time for an ambulance was not an option, I drove her to Whittington A&E (took 10-15mins). They were excellent, prioritising her treatment & even the security guys let me park “illegally” outside A&E for a while.
2. About 5 years ago I had a series of eye operations at the Royal Free. Again, excellent (not A&E) treatment. However, journey by car took about 45 mins and by public transport, with several changes nearly hour and a half.
3. Last year, my 89 year old neighbour had a bad fall at the end of our road (bad cuts & bruises to her face & some concussion). A helpful passer by called me & an even more helpful policeman called an ambulance (arrived in less than 10 mins), which took her to Whittington A&E. I then drove there, so as to keep her company until her daughter could arrive from work in Central London. Took about 10-15mins again plus 5mins to find a parking place.
The point of the 3 stories is that I know the driving & public transport routes to both hospitals, I know that each method takes 3 times as long to Royal Free as to Whittington, and even though an ambulance would be quicker, the relative times ratio would still be the same, especially with the number of “sleeping policemen” en route (& assuming an ambulance was available !).
Perhaps not an issue for stories 2 & 3, but I would worry that the tourniquets I put on my wife’s arms (story 1) would have stemmed her blood loss long enough for a journey to the Royal Free.
It had been a busy day — several business meetings, a proposal to write, auditions to sit in, budgets to finish. By the afternoon and several cups of coffee later my heart began to palpitate. It’s a condition I’ve been used to ever since my late teens and was normally able to deal with through breathing exercises. Except this time the palpitations wouldn’t go away.
Eventually my business partner insisted I go home and rest. The palpitations continued all through my drive home from Clerkenwell to Highgate. I began to worry, thinking the worst, thinking of what would happen to my family of two small children if anything happened to me. As I passed the Whittington I stopped the car and went into A&E, told them why I was there and their formidably efficient heart monitoring system switched into overdrive.
I was whisked up to have an ECG, down again to be put onto a monitor and within half an hour was seeing a top heart consultant. My story has a happy ending, but I often wonder what might have happened had I had to get to the Royal Free that day instead of having the Whittington on my doorstep, and shudder at the prospect. And for many, getting to the Royal Free is no easy journey.
The Whittington A&E is a lifeline to many thousands of people to whom life has not been kind. It provides a service to some of the poorest people in Western Europe. It deals with unimaginable human problems day in and day out. It is a vital local resource which I for one will fight ceaselessly to keep open.