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Islington Tribune - FORUM: Opinion in the IT
Published: 24 October 2008

Rachel Tyndall is chief executive of Islington Primary Care Trust
Patients deserve the best, that’s why we must quit health centre

Finsbury Health Centre architect Berthold Lubetkin believed nothing was too good for ordinary people. Rachel Tyndall maintains that means medics must now move out of his iconic building

WE’VE been pleased to receive hundreds of replies so far to the questionnaire about Islington Primary Care Trust (PCT) proposals to move some community health services.
We are asking Islington people about our proposals, which include moving services from Finsbury Health Centre, providing a new building next door for the two GP practices based there and developing a large new health centre in Hornsey Street.
We think our proposals will give us premises which are physically better and better suited to the services they provide. They will also be more accessible to all patients and more evenly distributed around Islington.
As the many people who love Finsbury Health Centre know, it is a building of immense social, architectural and historic importance. It was providing health services in Islington 10 years before the NHS existed.
The historic importance of Finsbury Health Centre means it is Grade I listed. That means there are strict rules about any changes or alterations that can be made. Any building or decorative materials must be as similar as possible to those used by architect Berthold Lubetkin 70 years ago, the basic layout of the building cannot be substantially changed and it would be extremely difficult and expensive to install a much-needed lift to all floors.
Over the years, there have been many attempts to come up with a satisfactory solution to these issues. Unfortunately, during that time, the building has fallen into a very serious state of disrepair.
We have thought long and hard about the best way forward for Finsbury Health Centre and believe that continuing to provide services there is no longer an option. Even if repair and restoration work are carried out, we don’t think the building can be improved enough to provide the best-possible modern health services.
It would cost far more to restore the building than it would to move services to new locations locally and develop the two new buildings.
We strongly believe that moving to more suitable premises where we can provide better quality and more accessible healthcare services is the right choice.
Podiatry, for example, is currently provided in cramped conditions at Finsbury. Staff don’t have enough space for their equipment and patients don’t receive the privacy they deserve. Some patients find it difficult to get to all parts of the building because there is no lift.
We understand that people who go to Finsbury Health Centre will be concerned about what might happen to their services. I can assure patients that our proposals are absolutely not about stopping, reducing or privatising any services.
Services currently provided at Finsbury for local people – the GP practices and podiatry – will stay in the local area. The two GP practices will move into a new building next door and there are a number of possible alternative local locations for the podiatry service. Some people have asked why we don’t move all the Finsbury services into the new building next door but unfortunately the site isn’t big enough.
Some services being provided at Finsbury – such as physiotherapy and community dentistry – are for everyone in Islington. So the proposed new locations for these services include more centrally located buildings.
Islington PCT has been in the unusual and difficult situation of trying to provide modern community health services in a Grade I-listed historic building. I sometimes wonder what Lubetkin himself would have made of the dilemma. Commenting on his design for Finsbury Health Centre he famously said that “nothing is too good for ordinary people”. We agree wholeheartedly with that, which is why we have made these proposals to provide the very best modern health services for everyone in Islington.

• Consultation ends on Sunday, December 21. For details of the proposals, the consultation and how to get in touch, visit the consultation section of our website – The documents are available in libraries and from our PALS team (call 020 7527 1086/1087).

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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