Representatives from NHS Islington took a thrashing at September 10th’s Health and Wellbeing Review Committee at Islington Town Hall, after they presented the councillors with a ream of evidence on paper (80% old documents) and a mercifully short powerpoint presentation. The health authority’s new Chief Operating Officer Helen Pettersen, formally czar of adult social care and community health – spent most of her fifteen minutes complaining about how much worked they’d done about Finsbury Health Centre. They’d tried their best, but it was just too expensive and the building has too many problems to overcome anyway to make it ‘fit for purpose’.
Lead by Chair Martin Klute on costs and Vice-Chair Marisha Ray on transport issues, most of the councillors present got something in the next 90 minutes. Cllr. Klute was particularly concerned that the people who came up with the £9.8 million figure are a firm of builders who are in turn a subsidiary of another company which in turn is a major shareholder in Camden and Islington Community Solutions, the PCT’s private partner in its LIFT company. Which is itself a subsidiary of something called Community Solutions for Primary Care, as it says on their website “a proven private sector community development partner, creating innovative solutions to deliver thriving inclusive and sustainable healthcare to the community.” After questioning the PCT about the complicated leaseback arrangements occasioned by LIFT Cllr Tracey Ismail remarked, “What a way to run a health system!”
PCT Finance Director Simon Goodwin went silent when asked whether the company which ‘varified’ the costs had actually challenged them at all, especially when they’d had no access to the design team for the plans they were costing. He also didn’t know if the original firm had any conservation experience.
Locality Director Tony Hoolaghan had trouble understanding the function of a lift, insisting that “if a lift is put in the back of the building, wheelchair users will have to go down too steep a gradient to get to it.” Cllr Ray weighed in with “if a lift does what it is supposed to do surely it will take wheelchairs on the ground floor?” Hoolaghan seemed to think not, or that if a lift went anywhere other than specified on the 2006 Sprunt plans “it would take up clinical space”. When asked by Cllr Klute why they were giving up FHC when it has almost as much space as the new Hornsey St HC, and would have over a third again freed up by moving the GPs to the Pine St Centre next door, Hoolaghan claimed that a lot of the FHC figure (but he couldn’t say exactly how much) is taken up with ‘non-clinical space’.
None of the other Health Centres have waiting areas, toilets, offices or hallways, then.
When challenged about current service movements, Helen Pettersen denied that these are happening insisted that the cuts in physiotherapy at Finsbury Health Centre – which gone down from being a five day a week service to two – are merely temporary and due to ‘two senior staff being away on maternity leave.’ She could not, however, give an estimate for when the service is due to be restored.
Will we ever know what problem the PCT was really trying to solve by deciding to sell Finsbury Health Centre? It seems little to do with “joining up services to improve care for local people”.
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