Will the PCT board get a chance to discuss FHC?

Forgive the long silence. In terms of the parliamentary debate and press things have been moving almost too fast; in terms of getting the PCT to debate the Council’s report and recommendations, progress has been slower than a glacial melt. One is left trying to read the meanders and guess at their significance.

This week came news that there will not be a meeting between the PCT Executive Board and the Health and Wellbeing Committee to discuss Finsbury Health Centre after all, although promised by PCT Chair Paula Kahn at both the March and May Board meetings. Cllr Martin Klute will now make his presentation to the regular board meeting on 22 July, which last Monday Kahn described as a formality since ‘the board has already decided’, and she appeared to believe that a discussion wouldn’t be necessary. Later that week another board member seemed to still be expecting the extra meeting, with a discussion at the very least. She did say with certainty, however, that the board had not voted on the issue and a decision has not been made.

The PCT executive has also been working on plans for a new £10 million ‘neighbourhood health centre’ (ie ‘polyclinic’ or as some in the PCT insist, ‘polysystem’) in the south of Islington although where exactly this is to be located has been a closely guarded secret. These plans are also due to be put forward at the 22 July meeting.

The debate over keeping FHC open has exposed the opaque, unaccountable way in which the health service is governed locally, but it’s shocking to think that the PCT’s Chair and executive might not feel accountable even to their own board members. One would think on a contentious issue as Finsbury Health Centre has been, the Chair would be scrupulous about allowing the non-executive board members full time and opportunity to consider it in their capacity as not only ‘experts’ but community representatives.

Of course overhanging all this is the uncertainty about the future of the PCTs nationally under Health Minister Andrew Lansley’s proposed changes to NHS governance. The White Paper was supposed to be issued 8 July, was delayed by Treasury qualms, and at this writing is still due on 12 July. Management costs are supposed to be slashed by 50% and the PCT’s commissioning powers are to go to GPs. After having promised no extensive ‘top down’ reorganisation during the election, Lansley wants all this to happen by April next year.

With rumours that the decisions for even a stripped-down PCT may devolve to local councils, people appointed by local councils, or even directly elected boards, the fight for its very existence is now on. One would think in this environment the PCT would be at pains to prove its own probity, to say nothing of its grasp of the facts and local views. A decision to go ahead with FHC’s refurbishment for community health services would at least provide some local stability during what looks like being a chaotic year ahead.

If you live locally, please write to the non-executive members of the board, who are listed here: http://www.islington.nhs.uk/meet-the-board.htm about your support for keeping Finsbury Health Centre open. Make sure you copy to a few of them, there seems to be something of a communication breakdown between the Chair and the rest.

And join us at 8.00 (yes, am) on Thursday, 22 July in front of the PCT’s 336 Goswell Rd headquarters with your own placard. Klute’s Finsbury Health Centre presentation will be first on the agenda at the board’s meeting at 9.30am ‘in public’.

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