Whittington partnership with Grenfell contractor still delayed
30 March, 2018 — By Tom Foot
Hospital chairman Steve Hitchins
A PROPOSED 10-year deal between the Whittington Hospital and the lead contractor of Grenfell Tower has still not been officially “signed off” – despite it being announced five months ago.
Hospital chiefs are insisting the “strategic estates partnership” (SEP) with Ryhurst – a subsidiary of Rydon – will still go ahead. But campaigners suspect the plans have been put on ice.
Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition chairwoman Shirley Franklin said: “We say that they should drop it because it hasn’t yet been signed off by NHS Improvement.”
The board caused uproar after it unveiled plans to partner with the company three months after the Grenfell disaster and before a public inquiry has concluded its investigation.
Hospital chairman Steve Hitchins predicted in a public meeting in November that the Whittington “will close” if the deal did not go ahead as planned.
The SEP is a joint venture between the NHS trust and the building contractor that would manage, and potentially profit, from the development of the Archway hospital’s sprawling estate. Ryhurst would steer the development to “optimising the asset base” while “reducing occupancy and running costs” and “maximising the return to the local community”.
Its managing director, Stephen Collison, has said “generating value from land and existing facilities that are no longer required for the provision of healthcare will continue to be top of the agenda for the NHS enabling investment in new and better clinical services for the NHS”.
In a recent post on the company’s website he pointed to the Department of Health’s “Project Phoenix” which aims “to unlock capital funds worth £5.7bn” from NHS land.
NHS Improvement – formerly Monitor, which approves hospital contracts – was supposed to sign off the Whittington Ryhurst deal in January.
The organisation has not responded to questions about why it has been delayed.
Two other NHS trusts have cut ties with Ryhurst after announcing similar estates partnerships.
Its parent company, Rydon, won a major maintenance contract from Islington Council when chairman Steve Hitchins was Lib Dem leader of the Town Hall.
Camden Council has recently stopped paying the firm PFI payments for maintenance of the Chalcots housing towers claiming breach of contract over poor quality works and refurbishment, including external cladding. It was the lead contractor at Grenfell that was responsible for the cladding and other refurbishments of the tower.
The firm strongly refutes any culpability and maintains that it met government regulations.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has he “cannot support the Whittington Hospital NHS Trust senior management and board selection of Ryhurst”.
A statement from Whittington said: “Whittington Health is entering a strategic estates partnership with Ryhurst. We have procured this estate partnership because it will provide us with the expertise that we do not have to develop an estates development plan.”