Don’t mention the W*

March 15, 2010

*W = Whittington

As mentioned earlier I went to the Haringey LINk meeting today.

Celia Ingham-Clark, Medical Director from the Whittington Hospital could not attend the meeting because she was meeting the Health Minister today.

So instead we had Dr Richard Jennings, Clinical Director for Medicine at the Whittington Hospital talking to us about who uses A&E.

The first thing the Chair of Haringey LINk told us when opening the meeting was that Dr Jennings would only speak generally about A&E and not take any questions about the future of the Whittington. I quickly realized that yet again I would not be able to get answers to the questions I really wanted to ask.

Dr Jennings gave us some very general  information such as that A&E attendances have gone up by 30% in the last years and that the numbers have been rising year on year. He also mentioned that there were estimates that 60% of patients currently attending A&E could be treated elsewhere, that some clinicians felt that this number was closer to 20% – 30% but that he couldn’t really give us an exact figure.

I was surprised he didn’t mention the research by the Primary Care Foundation, which puts the percentage of patients who would be more effectively treated elsewhere  at 10%. So I asked him about this and how he would explain the huge discrepancies (50 %) in the figures.

He replied that he was familiar with the research I referred to (why not mention it in the first place then?). And that these numbers had made clinicians think about how many patients could realistically be treated elsewhere. He tought the discrepancies were down to the fact that no clearly defined remit had been established against which one could compare and analyse the figures.

I wasn’t the only one who found the “only general questions”  rule frustrating. Karen Jennings asked if it is true that A&E patients in ambulances are already diverted away from the Whittington A&E department. As far as I understood it the “general” answer was that for certain conditions like major trauma and heart attacks there were good reasons to by-pass an A&E department and be transported to more specialists units.

She also asked if the A&E closes would the maternity services be closed down as well. To which Dr. Jennings in very general terms replied that A&E and maternity units were not intrinsically linked but that one would need a lot of specialist support to run a maternity unit.  I would interpret this very vague answer as a yes – if A&E closes a hospital  is unlikely to be able to maintain a full maternity unit.

I could not stay until the end because I had an ante-natal appointment so I don’t know if there would have been more opportunities for more informal discussions later on.

I found the meeting extremely  frustrating. What were the organisers of the public meeting thinking? You invite someone to talk about an issue which gets everyone’s blood boiling but you are only allowed to ask “general questions” ??!!!?

I am just now reading the LINk brochure I was given at the event. It says that “Your LINk can look into specific issues of concern to the community”.  So why do we have to discuss specific issues in the most general of terms ?

Several years ago I lived in a country that was – and still is – in the grip of a notorious dictator who will make the lives of people who speak out against him very, very difficult. So some issues can only be discussed in the most general of terms and everyone has to second guess from the vague statements of other people what they are actually trying to say without getting into too much trouble. 

The public meeting today reminded me quite a bit of life in the above country.

More about the meeting on Karen Jennings blog.

Why on earth is it so difficult to get straight forward answers to some very simple questions ?

The good news is that while I might not have succeeded today I will not give up trying to understand what is really going on and why there is so much secrecy surrounding the whole Whittington business.

The minute I get more answers you guys will be the first to know. So please bear with me on this blog.

In the meantime: Why not get a couple of more people to sign the petition?

Click here for the link to e-mail to all your mates.

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One Response to “Don’t mention the W*”


  1. […] Director of Medicine at the Whittington, whom I met a few weeks ago when he took great care to avoid expressing an opinion about the proposed closures,  today confidently put his arguments to the minister on behalf of all the clinicians of the […]


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