The day continued…On the evening of the 27th, Cllr Martin Klute gave a short presentation of the HWB committee’s report to the new Council Executive. He said the Finsbury Health Centre is ‘a good design, simple and straightforward’ and that according to the Health and Wellbeing Committee’s findings there are solid healthcare arguments for keeping it, as well as financial ones. It is ideally placed and already delivering services. He stressed that most importantly, having built FHC with their taxes, the community feels a sense of ownership of the place, which has some impact on their use of the services there, and makes for low staff turn-over. Refurbishment, he said, especially with grant funding, represents true value for money.
Klute said the HWB Committee absolutely wants to try by all means to negotiate, and to that end there has been agreement for ‘an open’ meeting with the PCT before their next board meeting in July.
Both councillors and public were allowed to speak in the discussion afterwards, and everyone acknowledged the cross-party support the findings have, as well as the general support for refurbishing Finsbury Health Centre and keeping it open.
Cllr Paul Convery answered the question posed in our earlier post, “Why here now?” by saying that the evidence was supported with remarkable unanimity in the Council, and that as a ‘player’ in this, the new Executive wants to avoid the ‘megaphone diplomacy’ of going to the minister. Former Council Leader Terry Stacey, speaking from the floor now, asked if the Council wants to become a ‘commissioner of health services’, to which Klute replied that it seemed to work quite well in Hammersmith and Fulham.
(A quick bit of research showed that this only seems to mean that they’re sharing their Chief Exec with the local PCT, and the officers of both bodies apparently working together more, with some ‘service’ decisions made jointly by the Council Executive and the PCT’s board.)
When SaveFHC asked if there was any deadline set for referral, the answer was no, since at the moment the Council is at pains to not ‘be negotiating under threat.’
Klute seems steadfast about negotiating a refurbishment deal including Finsbury Health Centre in a kind of campus with the Pine Street Centre next door. As much as one would like to just leave them to it, however, there have been worrying noises about the FHC issue taking second place to some ‘high level negotiations’ between the Council and PCT about the ‘new accountability agenda’. As laudable as the overall aim may be – to introduce more public scrutiny at an earlier stage in healthcare decisions – there is a danger that the Labour Party may pass up what should be a quick win along the way.
Over the border in Camden, their newly re-Labourised Council has been faster to act on specific pledges made during the election, for example stopping a sale of houses at their first meeting after the election.
While there was much talk after the Islington meeting of the immanent demise of the PCT, it is unlikely that a new health bill will be introduced before Autumn. That is a lot of time for the current board to convince Lansley not to change things too much. Too long to stall on Finsbury Health Centre.
On the other hand, while the PCT board and executives consider their positions they could do worse than to agree to the Council’s recommendations. The relevant evidence and popular will closely coincide; it would be a chance to show Lansley that they can actually listen to the ‘community’ mentioned everywhere in their literature but rarely heard.
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