On a tip from a supporter, last Thursday 7 May SaveFHC went along to a lecture held by the Fabian Society. Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Health was speaking about how the NHS is tackling health inequalities. Since Finsbury Health Centre was created with the aim of ‘tackling health inequalities’ before that phrase was invented, we were interested to hear what the government’s priorities are these days.
The audience was a range of civil servants, healthcare and advice charities, academics, a sprinkle of odd policy/media consultants and Novartis Pharmaceuticals.
Along with ‘tackling health inequality’ the other catchphrase of Johnson’s speech was ‘evidence-based policy making’. A Guardian article flagging the speech the day before concentrated on what came out on the day as an embarrassingly abstruse attack on the Tories, but statistics showing government successes were the meat of the speech.
There was a chance to speak at the end. Since health policy is supposed to be ‘evidence based’ I asked how our PCT had decided to get rid of a building well-designed to tackle health inequalities without reference to evidence of actual patient need. (It didn’t quite come out like that. The Fabian chair immediately spotted a wild-eyed single-issue freak and finally managed to stop me after a couple minutes.)
In reply Johnson was unsurprisingly vague, but he got the gist. He “didn’t know much” about the Finsbury Health Centre. As hard as they try to get PCTs working towards the elimination of health inequalities it may be that “this one is anomalous”. We hear from neighbours in Camden that their PCT prefers to pay for focus groups of Bangladeshi women on health policy to actual services which allow them better access to healthcare, but may it’s just those two?
Let’s hope the IRP agreed with us about Finsbury Health Centre. Alan Johnson doesn’t look like having much time to bone up on it these days. A decision to refurbish the Finsbury Health Centre and keep community health services there, however, would only help bolster his growing image as one of the last decent human beings left in government.
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