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Islington Tribune - by TOM FOOT
Published: 22 May 2009

Paul Convery

Government review panel orders a rethink of closure plan

HEALTH Secretary Alan Johnson has intervened to order a rethink of plans to shut Finsbury Health Centre.
Mr Johnson has written to NHS Islington chief executive Rachel Tyndall, asking for a complete “reappraisal” of ways to keep the Pine Street building open.
In January, Ms Tyndall approved plans to sell the historic Grade I-listed building – designed by architect Bertholt Lubetkin in 1938 – to a private developer.
But Islington Council’s health and well­being review committee referred the decision to the secretary of state’s independent review panel (IRP) after NHS Islington failed to consult with the council properly. It was the first time this not-widely-known power had been used in Islington.
Labour councillor Paul Convery, then chairman of the health committee, said: “The IRP is a real show-stopper, and that power should be used sparingly. But we had to do it.
“Mr Johnson has now said that NHS Islington must engage properly with the council and, most importantly, that it must carry out a reappraisal of future uses of the health ­centre.”
Documents obtained by the Labour councillor show how Town Hall officials wrote to NHS Islington in March outlining their support for its stance and stating that the move to refer the closure plans to Mr Johnson “did not reflect the view of the council’s administration”.
Last summer, Lib Dem councillors stood outside the health centre with placards calling for it to remain open.
The IRP has now ordered NHS Islington to work with NHS London, Islington Council and a patients’ campaign group to find a “local solution”.
In a statement, NHS Islington said it honoured the recommendations of the IRP.
Health chiefs maintain that in its current condition the pioneering centre, built 10 years before the NHS, is “unsuitable” for the provision of 21st-century healthcare. Under government reforms, all NHS buildings must be built or refurbished under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme where the health authority is forced to hand over ownership to a private firm and agree to lease the building back over 25 years.
This condition puts the cost of refurbishing the Finsbury centre in excess of £10million – more than twice what it would cost to build a new centre with the same space for services.
The Campaign to Save Finsbury Health Centre, which has fought the closure plans for more than a year, suggested setting up a charitable trust and using grants to refurbish the building on a not-for-profit basis.
This option was ignored during the consultation process, but must now be considered because of the IRP’s findings.
Campaign leader Barb Jacobson said: “This is good news. We have been saying all along that NHS Islington should consider a charitable trust option – and now they have to. They have been told they have to work with local stakeholders, and staff also.”
Helen Pettersen, NHS Islington’s chief operating officer, said: “We welcome the IRP’s assessment and are already taking forward the recommendation that we continue to work closely with Islington Council to try and achieve local resolution.
“This will involve engaging local stakeholders in further discussions and exploring other options for the future of Finsbury Health Centre.”

* A fundraiser for the health centre, with auction and tombola, is to be held in Exmouth Market from 6.30pm on June 18. Architect John Allan will give a talk about his friend, Bertholt Lubetkin.

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Andrew Myer, couldn't you for once just give an objective opinion instead of pedalling your party; have some respect, don't you understand the context of the article was about 'restoring confidence in our political SYSTEM'; if you want votes knock on doors, don't hijack this platform
Thomas Donnelly


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