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Weeklies launch fight against hospital cuts

Two weekly newspapers have launched a campaign against major cuts at a local hospital which could see almost half the site sold off and more than 300 jobs lost.

The Hampstead and Highgate Express has launched its Hands Off Our Whittington campaign in partnership with the Islington Gazette to fight against cuts at Whittington Hospital in Highgate.

They are backing local people who have already started campaigning against the proposals, which were approved last month, to sell off almost half the hospital site with the loss of more than 100 beds, the closure of three wards and the loss of more than 300 jobs.

The Archant titles have received support for the campaign from MPs, Camden Council and community campaigners.

Editor Geoff Martin said: “We are just reflecting the strength of feeling and opposition that there is in the area.

“I think we are really well placed, along with our sister paper in Islington, and the areas that we cover would both be badly affected by any cut in services.

“I think there’s a very strong argument against what is being proposed by the hospital board and we are articulating that and giving voice to the very serious concerns that there are about the loss of part of the physical site and the loss of nurses’ jobs and some services.

“I think it is going to be a mighty fight because the hospital seems to have made its mind up, but this doesn’t look to be good for our area. We have a strong history of campaigning for things that are good for the area.

“The most important role we can play is to cover the story and give it prominence and draw attention to what could be lost if these proposals go ahead.”

Cuts planned for the site also include selling off staff accommodation and capping the number of births taking place there at 4,000.

The Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, which successfully led a fight to save the hospital’s A&E unit in 2010, has organised a protest march on 16 March against the cuts.

Shirley Franklin, who heads the coalition, said: “We are chuffed that the Ham&High has launched the Hands off our Whittington campaign.

“Local newspapers can play a vital role in helping local people to become aware of the issues and motivate them to join our activities to stop the decimation of our hospital.

“Our main demand is for the board to rescind their plans for the sell-off. We do not want to lose one bed, one job or one building at the Whittington. We welcome the much needed development of community health care, but not at the expense of our local hospital facilities.”