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Whittington U-turn triggers legal fight with Grenfell firm

Hospital backed out of ‘strategic estates partner’ deal in June – NHS campaigners are now urging company to ‘bow out gracefully’

23 November, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Shirley Franklin, from the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition campaign group: ‘How can they within their own conscience take money off the NHS when they know about the ­crisis?’

A FIRM linked to the company responsible for the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower has been slammed after launching a legal action against the NHS.

Ryhurst, part of the Rydon Group, lodged a claim on Friday in the High Court after the Whittington Hospital backed out of a deal to become a “strategic estates partner” with the company in June.

The move to press ahead with legal action has been criticised by national campaign groups.

In a statement Dr Alex Ashman, the co-leader of the National Health Action Party, said: “People are deeply uncomfortable at the thought their taxes – which they want to be spent on frontline care – could go towards lining the pockets of a firm with links to Grenfell.

“But, yet again, the Health and Social Care Act is overriding the wishes of the public by giving big business the power to sue the NHS if it doesn’t get its own way – costing the NHS even more money which ought to be going to frontline services.”

Speaking on Wednesday, Shirley Franklin, from the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition campaign group, added: “How can they within their own conscience take money off the NHS when they know about the ­crisis? They should bow out gracefully.”

Ryhurst is part of the Rydon Group, which oversaw the renovation of Grenfell Tower in west London, where 72 people died in a fire last year.

Rydon has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and they have not been charged with any offence.

The Whittington Hospital 

Ryhurst, in its submission to the court, argues the Whittington wrongly backed out of a potential 10-year deal based on political pressure and campaigning following the Grenfell disaster.

It wants the court to order the NHS trust to award it the contract – and it is also seeking compensation for loss of profits.

An initial legal submission was made to the High Court on Friday ahead of a full hearing at a date yet to be fixed.

The Whittington board in June 2017 decided on Ryhurst as its preferred bidder to take forward a major reorganisation of its NHS-owned estate. The fire at Grenfell followed three days later but despite this the Whittington board in October confirmed the company would take forward the project.

Ryhurst’s submission to the High Court says pressure from a local campaign group “and a number of MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn” changed the minds of the board, the Health Services Journal has reported.

A main part of the firm’s argument is a question mark over how the decision to drop it was announced on June 22, before the board had officially agreed the decision.

This week, a Whittington statement said: “The procurement process we abandoned in the summer is currently subject to legal challenge.”

Ryhurst said it would not comment at this stage.

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