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Islington Tribune - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 6 February 2009
Narrow vision of health centre decision-makers

• THE Campaign to Save Finsbury Health Centre would like to thank the community in Islington and Camden for their strong support in opposing NHS Islington’s plans to abandon Finsbury Health Centre and relocate health services (Axed: piece of our history, January 30).

Even by its own skewed method, NHS Islington’s recent consultation was hardly a resounding acceptance of the plan by the users of the health centres affected, including Goodinge, Highbury Grange and Northern centres.
On January 29, board members chose to ignore the option of engaging a not-for-profit trust to refurbish the Finsbury centre.
This option would safeguard the centre and services, and avoid another costly Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme, where the healthcare budget is spent financing a lengthy private contract. Instead, a not-for-profit trust would be responsible for raising grant funding to refurbish the building, and then lease it back to the health authority on more favourable terms than a mortgage deal under PFI.
Many experienced architects feel that the health centre could easily be updated and made fit for purpose by modern standards at a cost far lower than the £9-10million now quoted by NHS Islington.
The decision to sell was taken despite this and other arguments presented to the board, including:
l Threat to local health services: how many vulnerable patients are able to journey on multiple buses to access the help they need? What will be the cost to NHS Islington to care for them in their homes as their condition deteriorates? A means-tested taxi scheme was pulled out of a hat by the executive during the meeting, although this was not costed.
l Population projections: according to Islington Council’s strategic policy unit data, the population is expected to rise between 15,000-20,000 in the next ten years, mainly in south Islington. Furthermore, three of the four wards in the borough with the highest proportion of people over 65 are in the Finsbury Health Centre catchment area.
l NHS Islington’s £5.7million surplus: how is this being used to “provide better health services” for the borough? This is the same amount of money NHS Islington originally claimed was necessary for refurbishment of the health centre. It should be remembered that the cost of refurbishing River Place has now reached the £9million mark, without complaint from the board.
l Carbon footprint: it is irresponsible at this time to contribute to Islington’s carbon footprint by relocating services out of Finsbury, demolishing a perfectly serviceable building next door in Pine Street and rebuilding a new GP practice on the site.
l There were doubts about cost when it was only £4-5million. Many experts agree that the present figure of £9.8million is grossly inflated.
These arguments fell on deaf ears. NHS Islington claims it has tried everything possible to keep this historic building and services, but it has in reality only considered the PFI model under the government LIFT scheme, for which other health authorities up and down the country have found cheaper alternatives.
There are solid grounds for a judicial review of this decision. We think it unfortunate that NHS Islington chose to ignore the opportunity to go the extra mile for the health of our community by delaying the sale of Finsbury Health Centre and giving time to explore the above and other options. It prefers, it seems, to risk spending its surplus on lawyers at the High Court.
The Campaign to Save Finsbury Health Centre is keen to hear from service users, staff and residents interested in participating in activities to support its work.
Please contact me on 020 7833 1395 or at
Margery Street, WC1

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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