Eyes on the stars

The other week Alexei Sayle was on the front page of Islington Gazette‘s EC1 edition with a strong statement in support of our campaign to keep Finsbury Health Centre open. He has actually supported our campaign since December 2008, but was kind enough to talk to the Gazette recently.

Unfortunately the Gazette seems uninterested in covering this issue without ‘celebrity’ involvement. Last autumn they ‘discovered’ Chris Smith’s support a year after he’d given it, although it did correspond to his appearance before the Health and Wellbieng Review Committee. There have ensued a couple fairly surreal conversations with their reporter wherein she kept asking for a reaction (what’s there to say except “that’s great”?) while I tried to explain our case and where things have got to. Sayle’s stardust must have worked however, because actually the article is pretty good on the news as well!

Another long-time supporter of ours and general all-round star, Wendy Savage, has been short-listed for a British Medical Journal Group Lifetime Achievement Award. You can vote for her here, on a side-bar poll on the right of the page. Oddly her involvement in Keep Our NHS Public and role in raising awareness about privatisation in the health service wasn’t mentioned in the biography given on the BMJ’s site. Wendy spoke at our first public meeting in November 2008; her speech can be viewed here. She also wrote an excellent letter in this week’s Islington Tribune stating that there is no clinical case for the proposed A&E closure at the Whittington.

Meanwhile, the stars of stage and screen in North London are piling in to support the campaign against the Whittington A&E closure, and we wish good luck to them. A recent NHS report has admitted that the outcry is likely to “inhibit progress and influence final outcomes.” Hopefully this will be headed off before there is a formal decision, and they won’t have to go through the procedural slog SaveFHC has had to negotiate. The Whittington row revealed a secretive third tier of London NHS management between the local Trusts and NHS London set up last July. This is taking up two days a week of our PCT’s Chief Executive’s time – even though who else is on this board (called variously ‘North Central London Sector/Quadrant/NHS’) or when and where it meets is still under wraps while it “develops its options.”

Last but certainly not least, Berthold Lubetkin’s daughter Sasha told Building Design last week that her father would rather have seen FHC ‘dynamited’ than turned into private flats. Her comments were presaged last year by Architects Journal blogger Ian Martin, who now is considering using his explosives elsewhere. There was also another supportive letter in the Tribune this week.

Stardust or no, NHS Islington (PCT) remains intransigent in the face of overwhelming expert evidence that they got it wrong on all counts, despite Chief Exec Rachel Tyndall’s admission at our November 2008 meeting that ‘if our figures are wrong, then the whole case falls down.” The Health and Wellbeing Committee will be voting Monday 1 March on referring the decision to close Finsbury Health Centre back to the Department of Health, which looks very likely.

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