Nervous laughter at PCT

NHS Islington (PCT) is now committed to having a ‘formal discussion’ of Finsbury Health Centre at its next meeting on 22 July, with a meeting sometime in the next two months beforehand to talk with the Health and Wellbeing committee about their report. The details of this meeting are yet to be worked out, a particular sticking point being whether it will be in public. Quite why the PCT is so afraid of a public meeting was not clarified.

Apparently, however, ‘architectural feasibility studies’ for two alternative sites have also been completed for the proposed southern polyclinic. The officer in charge of working out the polyclinic proposals for the borough claimed she ‘had no idea’ where they are, although she promised to get back to SaveFHC about them later.

Bigger changes afoot?
The PCT also discussed Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s proposed changes to the health authority’s structure for over an hour at the beginning. Darzi’s plan for Healthcare in the London has been thrown out, PCTs are to become ‘independent’ bodies led by GPs with nominees by the local council elected by the public. It is also looking like there will be demands on NHS spending to make up for cuts in local government services.

Worst of all, from their point of view, there is to be a 51% savings made on management costs over the next 3-4 years, up from the third Labour wanted to cut. This elicited several protests from board members about the necessity of management. The top management at Islington PCT took an average 40% pay rise last year, so it shouldn’t be too painful.

Despite much in the press about Lansley’s plans to cut down on quangos, give GPs more power over the system, and make the new ‘independent’ bodies more locally accountable, Paula Kahn seemed fairly sanguine that the new bodies ‘may not be all that different’ from their current form. She and NHS London Chief Ruth Carnall are planning a charm offensive to show Lansley how well the current structures work in Tower Hamlets and Islington.

Certainly Lansley is uninterested in saving money by ending PFI and the internal market, and worse, seems set to remove the NHS as the ‘preferred provider’ in commissioned services.

Amidst nervous laughter Non-exec board member Anne Weyman remarked that ‘we are not allowed to use the terms ‘polyclinic’ or ‘polysystem’ any more, but can perhaps just substitute the term ‘neighbourhood health centre’. We can live with that, but the mysterious alternative sites remain a worry.

Meanwhile, the Islington Tribune has been picking at the McKinsey report released last week, and a £35,000 rebranding of the Camden and Islington Foundation Trust, which still doesn’t mention the words “mental health”, its core responsibility. In the new “increasingly competitive healthcare market” wouldn’t they want to mention their Unique Selling Point?

This clutch of FOI requests rounded off in the Camden New Journal, with the revelation that NHS chiefs were on the point of dumping the Whittington A&E closures anyway, although it doesn’t say exactly when. At least we know public pressure can get these quangos to change their minds…


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