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Islington Tribune - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 10 October 2008
Finsbury Health Centre, which faces the threat of sell-off
Finsbury Health Centre, which faces the threat of sell-off
Don’t despair, pioneering health centre can still be saved from axe

A consultation exercise rules out the possibility of saving Finsbury Health Centre, but Barb Jacobson believes public pressure could still change minds

ALTHOUGH it does feel like a “done deal”, as reported in the Tribune article about our campaign to save Finsbury Health Centre (FHC) and keep its services, I would like to emphasise that we are fully aware there has not yet been an official decision made by Islington Primary Care Trust (PCT) (Break-up of historic health service ‘a done deal’, September 26).
With enough public pressure there is still time to save it. More than 1,200 people have signed our petition and we are gathering more support every day.
What we keep hearing time and time again is how much people rely on the services being where they are and how much affection they have for the building. Lubetkin’s design provided for both physical access and flexibility of use; people find it hard to believe that after years spent considering refurbishment no solution could be found.
Since the PCT can’t find the report of its last detailed consultation into refurbishing FHC, which cost it at least £50,000 in 2003, its care in considering the issue must be questioned.
The current PCT consultation is not about whether to keep FHC, but where to move its services. None of the questions gives an option to keep services at FHC, and there is nothing asked about whether people feel the centre itself should be refurbished or sold.
Two days after this consultation was to start, there were no consultation papers available at FHC and the reception there had been told nothing. It is available online, but is difficult to find on the PCT website.
How this will reach particularly elderly people who use FHC and others who have no access to the internet is anyone’s guess. Since a primary reason given for moving the services is lack of “access”, the PCT itself is making little effort to make this consultation accessible to people who use the health centre.
The PCT claims it “would rather spend the money on healthcare” – as though it will cost nothing to move the specialist services to other parts of the borough and build a new GP surgery next door. These figures it refuses to produce.
The consultation brochure and Tony Hoolaghan now talk about having to “rent” FHC, yet the PCT owns the FHC outright.
English Heritage had offered to match-fund whatever the PCT put up to refurbish the centre pound for pound, yet it has seen no recent proposals for refurbishment, nor any detailed costings.
Islington PCT still holds monies from a central government programme called LIFT specifically earmarked for refurbishment of FHC, but these are not mentioned in the current consultation. There is also nothing in any public documents which shows it considered other funding sources such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Wellcome Trust or other bodies which might be interested in helping to save FHC and keep its services where they are.
The PCT’s latest notion that some health services might be run out of St Luke’s Parochial Centre in Central Street has only come up in the wake of our campaign. The building which might house these has not been built yet, and in the current financial climate its future is uncertain.
While it is true that more health services are needed in the St Luke’s area to deal with the increase in population there, these should not come at the cost of removing services from Finsbury Health Centre.
Lubetkin’s philosophy was that “Nothing is too good for the common person”, and three generations of healthcare workers at Finsbury Health Centre have put this philosophy into practice. It is time for the PCT to demonstrate its own commitment to it.
The petition to stop the sell-off of FHC and keep the specialist services there is online at
Paper petitions are also still available from me on 020 7833 1395.

• Barb Jacobson is a patient at Finsbury Health Centre.

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Islington Tribune, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to Deadline for letters is midday Wednesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld . Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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