Whittington Hospital’s £21m Covid response contributes to its ‘biggest annual spend in a decade’

Whittington Hospital. Photograph: Wikicommons

A north London hospital trust spent nearly £5m on equipment and specialist machines to help it cope with Covid.

Throughout the pandemic, staff at the Whittington Hospital in Archway have cared for 1,492 people with the virus, including children’s writer and poet Michael Rosen.

Sadly, 320 patients died.

In January, the Whittington had the highest proportion of Covid patients to hospital beds in the country.

The hospital’s chief executive Siobhan Harrington told the annual general meeting (30 September) that last year had a real impact because Covid had meant restrictions on visits.

Harrington, who normally does a walk-around on Christmas Day to see patients, said: “I will always remember how hard it was to see people without relatives.”

She said it had been a “rollercoaster for staff”, including some from overseas who had not seen family, and those who had been ill or bereaved.

The number of cases at the hospital has now reached nearly 2,000 in total, and as of 23 September, the trust had 12 Covid-positive inpatients, including six in intensive care – one of whom is no longer infected.

The trust’s chief finance officer Kevin Curnow outlined the £21m of capital expenditure over the last financial year. It was the biggest outlay for about 10 years, he said.

He explained that £5m went on IT to help the trust become more agile, with working from home and 300,000 virtual appointments.

A further £8m was spent on the new education centre at the Archway site, with more waiting rooms created in response to Covid, and infection control measures introduced, such as screens in offices and outpatient waiting areas.

Another £8m went on medical equipment, rapid testing, more continuous positive airway machines to help patients with their breathing, and endoscopy services.

“Large investments going in over the year amounting to £21m and almost £5m was actually in direct response to Covid from the trust,” Curnow explained.

Like his colleagues, he thanked staff and patients for their response in tackling the virus during such a challenging year.

He warned: “This is not the end of it, we are going to need all of that strength, all of that dedication you’ve shown over the last 18 months in the future. We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Harrington said: “It is going to be quite a challenging winter. Obviously safe, high quality care is our chief priority. The care of patients with Covid, recovery of our services and reducing waits for patients, alongside retaining the health and wellbeing of our staff and making here the best place to work remain our priorities.”

Save the Whittington campaigner Shirley Franklin told the online meeting: “I’m proud of what this hospital does for this community.”

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn added: “I think it’s a day to say thank you to everyone involved.”

Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West also paid tribute to the care of patients during the pandemic.