Feel the love – Islington Council Health and Wellbeing Review Committee decide to refer FHC decision to Alan Johnson

Your Britain - Fight for it Now! showing Finsbury Health Centre in the foreground, boy with rickets in a derelict backyard with 'disease' and 'neglect' written on the walls

Recruitment poster by Abram Games, 1942. Used with permission.

A busy week, which started with a tip-off from a civil servant in the Department of Health that:

“With regard to your comment about ‘challenging the PCT’, I should explain that, following public consultation on proposals for service changes, any decisions made are subject to scrutiny by the local overview and scrutiny committee (OSC).  Should the OSC determine that the consultation has been inadequate or that the final proposal itself is flawed, it can refer the decision to Alan Johnson, in his capacity as Secretary of State for Health, to make the final decision.  On 4 July 2007, Mr Johnson announced that he will seek advice from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) on all referrals received.  As the recommendations of the IRP are published, such scrutiny will ensure that proposals for the reconfiguration of local healthcare services are made in the best interests of clinical need and patient care not financial concerns.”

It took a couple days to sort out what that meant, since there three different committees with similar names. When we asked Paul Convery, Chair of Islington Council’s Health and Wellbeing Review Committee to look into it, it turned out that they were the one with this power. And they happened to have the FHC sell-off and service relocation plans scheduled for discussion last Thursday the 12th.

Many friends turned out that evening to speak, including Alec Foreshaw, former Senior Conservation Officer for LBI; Thomas Cooper, TMO manager at Spa Green, another Lubetkin building which has recently been refurbished, John Cooper, an experienced public sector architect and Chair of Architects for Health; Angela Sinclair, former Chair of Islington Pensioners Forum and widow of one of the first doctors to work at FHC; John Worker, of the Islington Pensioners Forum and former Islington Councillor; Terrence Luke, member of Islington Unison and former Clerkenwell resident; Helen Cagnoni, 4th generation Clerkenwell resident and activist. All questioned various aspects of the current plans including cost, assumptions about disability and the listing, previous maintenance responsibilities not fulfilled, whether there had been any consideration of demographics. Then followed a spirited debate by councillors, during which Cllr Marisha Ray complained that her letter with serious questions about the plans to Rachel Tyndall was not even answered and Cllr Donna Boffa spoke movingly about the Italian community’s connections to the building.

In the end, the committee voted unanimously that since they themselves had not been consulted properly about the closure of Finsbury Health Centre, on the details of the relocation plans agreed on the 29th of January by the NHS Islington Board, and insufficient account was taken of the growing population, they would refer the decision to the Secretary of State and that there should be no action taken on these plans until this happens. How good it would be to not have to go to court!

The Love Our Health Centre day was quiet, but we had very good conversations with a number of people including Angela Sinclair, local historian Mary Cosh and a GP who works at Finsbury Health Centre. We also showed a set of George Cullen’s drawings explaining the principles behind the design of the FHC.

As icing on the cake, Abram Games’s family today donated use of his poster “Your Britain – Fight for it now” for publicity and fundraising purposes. Feel the love.

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