The Independent London Newspaper

 

Real setback in the fight to save historic Finsbury health centre

Published: 06 August, 2010

• AGAIN the Tribune has put a far more positive spin on events (Reforms could mean health centre lifeline, July 23) than the situation deserves. 

The primary care trust (PCT) board decided to reject the council’s recommendations to keep Finsbury Health Centre (FHC) open and that is a setback, not a reprieve, since it blocks any immediate progress.

The fact is the board made no discernible attempt to grasp the sound economic basis for refurbishing FHC, nor the recommendation by the council that they investigate alternatives to the finance model used to refurbish or build other health centres in Islington. This now costs the NHS over £1.5million a year to service, the highest anywhere in Britain. This legacy will be a burden on the NHS for the next 25 to 30 years – the work will actually cost up to six times the original capital cost – and must be paid before any provision of services. 

For all the talk by PCT chair Paula Kahn about “hard financial times” prohibiting refurbishment of FHC, the PCT agreed with this closure long before the credit crisis hit. 

It has also agreed to spend a further £2 million to refurbish the new Whittington A&E in preparation for an Urgent Care Centre. Last year, while paying lip-service to the need for efficiency savings, both PCT executive and non-executive board members gave themselves pay rises. 

Ms Kahn’s stipend alone went up by almost a third.

The Save FHC Campaign will continue to fight for the centre and the spirit of public health it represents, throughout the coming upheaval. Whether the reforms will benefit our cause or not depends largely on whether people push for health services to come under more democratic control during the white paper consultation. 

That the local healthcare quangos, which have mushroomed over the last year, are not fit for purpose is now beyond doubt.

Ordinary people deserve far better.
BARB JACOBSON
Campaign to Save Finsbury Health Centre, WC1

• THE rejection by Islington’s health bosses of proposals to refurbish Finsbury Health Centre is no surprise. 

In fact, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the PCT, now known as NHS Islington (NHSI), has never been serious about saving Berthold Lubetkin’s pioneering, listed building and popular local medical facility. 

The quango’s 2009-10 annual report is clear: “... to secure our premises for a neighbourhood health centre in the south of Islington and identify providers who will run services from it. This hub will be open by summer 2012”. 

The NHSI already owns premises in Islington south: FHC and the adjacent Pine Street premises bought by the-then PCT some three years ago. 

You won’t glean this from reading the report, however. Why so coy about the premises it has already “secured”? Perhaps it’s NHSI’s intention to sell both its FHC and Pine Street sites to fund its planned new centre, begging the question of why Pine Street was purchased so recently, if not for healthcare? 

It seems the PCT has always wanted to rid itself of FHC as a medical resource. It’s even been said that NHS has wanted to dispose of the building for some 30 years.

Perhaps the intention is to cleanse Islington of Finsbury’s earlier progressive political history, of which Lubetkin and FHC were a crucial part?
MEG HOWARTH
Ellington Street, N7
 

• HEALTH provision is a vital community resource and a personal need. 

We all need medical care, from the young to the old, from pregnant women to disabled people. Any cuts or changes to healthcare provision is an issue that affects us all 

That is why the government’s planned changes to the NHS regions should be of concern to everyone. There are plans to make sweeping changes to the way we finance regional health care with plans to give the majority of money and decision making power to GPs.  

A similar scheme was tried in the 1980s and resulted in ward and hospital closures with NHS doctors and nurses in open revolt. 

A few hospitals managed to attract the majority of funding, leaving the rest to pick up the pieces, and gaps in the service appeared. There was simply not enough money to provide the level of care needed.

These new plans will create a two-tier system, one for those who can pay to top-up their care and another for those who can’t. This is not what our NHS is about; it should be free to all at the point of delivery. 

This is why it is important that the public makes its voice heard as these changes go through parliament. 

It is the taxpayer who funds the NHS, not GPs. It is our health service and we should decide what we want and how our money is spent. 
CLLR RAPHAEL ANDREWS 
Labour, Clerkenwell ward

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