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Islington Tribune - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 27 November 2009
Let health centre decision-makers explain themselves

• WE applaud Councillor Martin Klute’s efforts to open up the council’s health and wellbeing review committee to the public and give it more teeth in terms of investigating a range of health issues.
The committee’s recent efforts to get at the facts of cost and patient need in relation to Finsbury Health Centre have been sterling. In the end, however, his committee has no direct control over NHS Islington primary care trust or the new North and Central Quadrant headed by trust chief executive Rachel Tyndall, still less over NHS London.
If the trust won’t compromise, all the committee can do is ask the Secretary of State for Health to decide the dispute. This Byzantine process is the main reason why nearly two years have passed without a solution since the trust’s bureaucrats first decided to abandon the health centre.
This is on top of the six years and some £100,000 NHS Islington spent mulling over a feasibility study, although a full architectural plan for refurbishment – including a lift approved by English Heritage – had been worked up only five years previously. In 2005, the study concluded: “The result... has been to prove that this amazing building can indeed... continue to provide primary care services” before sitting on the shelf for another three years. Then the trust announced that refurbishment would be too expensive after all.
Too expensive? The trust is a partner with EC1 New Deal board, but never asked for help to refurbish the health centre before announcing it would close. Was it afraid that EC1 New Deal might offer money towards a scheme to save it?
By contrast, it took Finsbury Borough Council only six years to build the health centre in the first place, from the time the money was first given towards the provision of public health services by London County Council to the 1938 opening. Finsbury Council was directly responsible to an electorate and had a transparent committee structure with direct control over public services.
It was able to directly borrow the extra money needed for the project at low interest rates, hire its own architect and be advised by its own doctor directly responsible for looking after the borough’s state of health.
Few would disagree with Cllr Klute’s complaint that farming out the management of local services to unaccountable quangos and private companies is unsatisfactory.
It is an unfortunate fact that, however enthusiastically the Lib Dems have embraced them, these changes were conceived by the Tories and pushed through by a Labour government.
Whoever got us in this mess, it is right that the non-executive members on the board of NHS Islington give some account of themselves. They may trust the information they’re getting from the executives, but as the Finsbury and now Whittington issues show, increasingly the people of Islington do not.
Barb Jacobson
Campaign to Save 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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