Published: 22 September 2011
by TOM FOOT
COUNCILLORS have blasted a string of “pathetic” excuses for the collapse of a deal to create a flagship NHS health centre on the King’s Cross Railway Lands development.
The Town Hall’s cross-party health scrutiny committee claimed that NHS Camden – the borough’s Primary Care Trust (PCT) – had repeatedly misinformed them that negotiations with developers Argent were “ongoing” months after they had actually ended.
The NHS Camden board agreed in July last year that the listed Stanley Building, opposite the entrance of St Pancras International, would become a state-of-the-art clinic run by Camden GPs.
It was meant to care for tens of thousands of people moving into new homes and offices in King’s Cross.
Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Braithwaite told Thursday’s meeting he had been “categorically assured” by health bosses and Camden Council’s own planning team that the project was going ahead – even after the New Journal revealed the plans had been scrapped in April.
He said: “It almost makes me want to cry. How do we get from a position where the PCT board approved it in July, and it just imploded through the rest of the year?
This has been a right Horlicks.”
NHS Camden chiefs told the meeting they now believe there is “no need” for a new health centre in King’s Cross and that any new patients can go to “nearby” practices – some as far away as Camden Town or to the A&E at University College London Hospital.
Cllr Braithwaite added: “When the M25 was built, it was amazing how the facility created the demand. Rather like the movie Field Of Dreams, it is my view ‘they would have come’.
“There will be tens of thousands of passengers passing through four railway stations, within about 100 metres, and we’re being told there is no demand. There will be 35,000 office workers, that is going to be a huge influx.
The high-speed rail is coming in. The footfall is absolutely massive. It should have been a health facility for 50 years.”
Committee chairman Cllr John Bryant said changes in government policy meant patients were being advised to register with practices “near where they work and not where they live”.
This would lead to a “sudden, massive change in demand”, he claimed, adding: “It seems to me, therefore, are we not anticipating a huge extra demand for GP services on this prime site?
The worry I have is that we were given assurances that were not true. We were told the negotiations were still ongoing, when they were closed.”
Camden NHS borough director David Crier said: “I absolutely agree this hasn’t been managed particularly well. But we have ended up with the right outcome.
There is no identified need in that locality. There is no new population at the moment. None of the GPs are prepared to move into the space.”
He said the NHS would return to plans for a health centre in Stephenson House on Hampstead Road. The former Logica Building was earmarked for a privately run “polyclinic” or “GP-led health centre” but, following a campaign by Camden Keep Our NHS Public, the proposals were scrapped.
Cllr Peter Brayshaw told the meeting that Stephenson House was a “white elephant” and said he feared the Stanley Building plan had been dropped because of the repeated failure to find a use for it.