Deals with Grenfell Tower contractor are ditched up North
New challenge to Whittington hospital plans after trusts elsewhere scrap controversial contracts
08 December, 2017 — By Tom Foot
A CAMPAIGN to stop hospital chiefs entering into a 10-year partnership with the lead Grenfell contractor took a new turn after two other NHS hospitals abandoned plans for a similar contract.
The Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition (DWHC) has written to the Highgate NHS trust’s board reiterating its demands after Wirral University Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust and Countess of Chester Hospital cancelled a joint plan to set up a “Strategic Estates Partnership” (SEP) with Ryhurst, which is part of the Rydon group.
In an online post unearthed by the Health Service Journal the North West NHS trusts said the decision had been made because of “risks arising out of the tragic events at Grenfell”.
In a letter to the Whittington board this week, Shirley Franklin, chairwoman of the DWHC, said: “You have told us that you have been given legal advice that this would not be possible, and would be too costly. But we now know that two other hospital trusts, Wirral University Hospital Foundation Trust and Chester Hospital FT, who started the procurement process in 2016, have abandoned their procurement processes with Ryhurst, due to concerns about Ryhurst’s link to Grenfell Tower contractor, Rydon.”
Last month the Whittington’s board said that after the Grenfell disaster they had taken legal advice from a QC about whether they could halt plans to set up an SEP with Ryhurst.
Chairman Steve Hitchins told a public meeting that scrapping the project – a major overhaul of the NHS trust’s large portfolio of land across north London – could lead to an expensive legal battle with Rydon and delaying progress could “shut down the hospital”.
Shirley Franklin, chairwoman of the DWH
Rydon has denied any wrongdoing over Grenfell and said that its refurbishment of the fire-hit tower block was in line with government standards and regulations. The company was lead contractor of a refurbishment programme at the tower which included flammable cladding being attached to the building.
But the decision to recommend Ryhurst as “preferred bidder” of Whittington’s SEP has been criticised by campaigners as crass, coming so soon after the Grenfell disaster.
Moyra Samuels, from Justice 4 Grenfell, told the Tribune: “It’s really disgusting that a company that is responsible for providing the cladding is being considered at the Whittington.”
In online notices the two North West trusts said it was not yet possible to judge the long-term impact of Grenfell on Rydon, adding that they had decided not to proceed with the SEP having regard to “certain uncertainties facing the market”. Ryhurst already has SEP contracts with NHS trusts across the country.
The SEP would work by the company providing capital and overseeing development projects on Whittington-owned land in a project lasting 10 years. A decision to appoint Ryhurst at the Whittington has not yet formally been approved.
Stephen Collinson, managing director of Ryhurst, said in a statement that the partnership with the Whittington would help “deliver new health care facilities and much-needed housing stock to the local area”, adding: “This will be delivered in consultation with key stakeholders to develop an exciting and intelligent estates strategy responding to the requirements and challenges of the local population.”
A Whittington Health spokeswoman said last night (Wednesday) that it was committed to the “very necessary” redevelopment of its estate. Having spoken to the trusts in the North West about the decisions they took in relation to SEPs, the Whittington understood that “the decisions they have made have happened within a set of entirely different contexts to those facing Whittington Health”.