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Official: Hospital to scrap its deal with Grenfell firm

Campaigners furious at ‘irresponsible’ property strategy call for Whittington chiefs to resign

29 June, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Campaigners against the controvers­ial property deal

WHITTINGTON Hospital chiefs yesterday (Thurs­day) officially abandoned plans for a 10-year private property deal.

In a move which confirmed the Tribune’s front page exclusive last week, the NHS trust said it was “no longer necessary” to hire Ryhurst, part of Rydon Group, the lead Grenfell Tower contractor.

Instead of entering into an “estates strategy” partnership aimed at sizing up what the hospital should do with its site and buildings in Archway, the Whittington said yesterday that the expertise could now be found “in-house”.

“All of the bidders have been informed of the board’s decision,” a hospital spokeswoman added.

The announcement chalked up another major campaign victory for Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition, which had repeatedly staged protests against the board over the Ryhurst deal and organised a packed public meeting in Islington town hall.

Chairwoman Shirley Franklin said: “Now, chairman Steve Hitchins and CEO Siobhan Harrington should resign. Their strategy has been diabolically unethical and totally irresponsible. They have ignored us. And yet we have been proved right.”

The Whittington said it would not respond to calls for the chairman to resign.

In October last year, it announced Ryhurst as its strategic estates partner (SEP) following a procurement process.

Last week’s Tribune

The Whittington board said they had informed Ryhurst that it was the preferred choice three days before the fire at Grenfell, the tower block in west London. The circumstances surrounding the blaze are being probed by a public inquiry.

After taking legal advice, the hospital decided to press ahead with the deal. Ryhurst began legal proceedings against two NHS trusts in the north west after they backed out of similar SEP plans.

Rydon has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing over its work on Grenfell Tower. It strongly rejects any culpability and maintains that it met government regulations with its refurbishment and cladding work.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also called for the proposed partnership to be scrapped.

In a letter to Islington Council health chief Martin Klute he said that he was “very concerned that the health service is being privatised without our approval”.

“Public outrage at the proposed partnership between Whittington and Rydon should not be ignored,” he added.

The Whittington said yesterday that it had recently received a £19million funding boost and could now afford to hire its own staff to work on a property strategy.

Council leader Richard Watts welcomed the statement, adding that the Town Hall was “keen to support the hospital where we can”.

The hospital statement added: “Following improve­­ments in its financial position, Whittington Health NHS Trust has decided to start work on its plans to improve its estate.

“The improved finances, coupled with strengthened relationships with other public sector organisations, mean that the trust is now in a stronger position to develop comprehensive plans for its estate in-house.

“As a result, it is no longer necessary to bring in external commercial expertise by entering into a strategic estates partnership.

“The trust will now move forward with plans to bring in a range of experts, including architects, planners and technical consultants, to start the process of developing a comprehensive plan for our estate and minimise any further delay to improving our estate for our local population.”

Whittington campaigners will be on the national NHS demo at Portland Place at midday tomorrow (Saturday) before marching to Downing Street for a rally around 2pm.


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