Local MP gets top TfL boss to look at bus to new hospital

Presenting back the bus cards to Mr Hendy

Local MP Lynne Featherstone has this week secured a promise of personal intervention from the top Transport for London boss over transport links to Hornsey Hospital.

At the successful meeting on Tuesday with London Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy, the Hornsey and Wood Green MP presented hundreds of ‘back the bus’ post cards signed by local residents in support of the Liberal Democrat campaign to improve local bus links to the site.

The Commissioner has agreed to arrange a meeting between himself, Lynne and local health service bosses to look at how the transport needs to the new Park Road health centre can be met.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“I’m delighted that TfL has recognised the need for better transport to the new hospital. With such wonderful new facilities it’s a real shame that the question of how to get there has been overlooked for so long.

“Now Haringey health service and Transport for London have got to come up with the goods.

“I just want to add a huge thank you to all local residents who took the time to ‘back the bus’ – I look forward to seeing Transport for London and the local NHS getting stuck into discussing real transport options so we can get the right bus service for local people.”

Getting to and from Hornsey Hospital

Well – the new all singing, all dancing Hornsey Hospital will open in the relatively near future. But despite raising the issue of public transport needs to the new facility since the day of its inception – and requests to Peter Hendy (TFL Commissioner of Transport for London) and Haringey Council and all – they are still ‘having meetings’ about it.

We need to make sure that this new medical centre is properly served by adequate public transport. They took away the W2 when it was closed some years ago. Official figures from the health trust acknowledge that the area is very poorly served by buses, with less than half of local residents able to get to the Park Road Health centre in less than 20 minutes. We need a new bus – particularly to serve those people whose GP practices move in, but also for everyone who will access the other services on site.

It is absolutely fantastic that we finally have a new health facility in our local area after campaigning for so long with local residents to make it happen. But what’s the point if it is so difficult for people to get there?

Music, hospitals, pensions and Post Offices

Another round-up of what I’ve been doing in the last few days – other than cursing the difficulty of typing whilst I’ve still got the cast!

– Had a marvellous evening at the 130th Anniversary Concert of the Highgate Choral Society – of which I am a patron. Elgar’s Apostles was absolutely superb and hugely enjoyable. Happy anniversary and well done.

– Walked around the almost ready Hornsey Hospital. It looks like this is going to be the bees’ knees as our new local community health centre – and after all the fears and doubts I suspect the community will love it. I will certainly be using the after-hours GP service, I’m sure. It has been really carefully designed. My goodness it has had a long gestation and many incarnations since we first campaigned against the closure of the old hospital and the promise was then made to put a new health facility on the site!

I was very excited by the words of Peter Christian (doctor from Dukes Avenue) who was talking about a collaborative approach amongst GPs and involving the local community more – including give a strong voice to patients.

– Met with the local pensioner lobby, and hear their demands for the state pension to bring people above the poverty line at £165.00, funded by removing the higher rate pension relief and using the NI fund which has a lot of money in it to fund the rises in the pension.

– Went to Muswell Hill Post Office to praise their work at cutting queuing times there. Fantastic improvement – so well done to them.

Hornsey Hospital: turning over a new leaf?

Last event for me yesterday was the consultation on Hornsey Hospital where the Primary Care Trust (PCT) has levered in Elizabeth Manero to work with the community and the Trust to try and get us all contributing and working together – replacing the scaremongering (some valid, some not) with positive moves forward.

I first met Elizabeth when I was on the London Assembly and the Government were getting rid of Patient Link – which represented the people’s voice in the health service. She didn’t save it – but I have to say she was/is the most able and ferocious advocate of the peoples’ voice I have ever met – so was delighted when she turned up.

It was a pretty comprehensive consultation session – and all the factions were in the room. The important thing, I think, is to make sure we get all the new and best health facilities for the west of the borough and that those facilities are what local people want.

To make us happy we need to know exactly which GPs will move in and how the transport will work. Elizabeth has already worked the miracle of getting the PCT to agree that they will survey the patients of any GPs who declare an interest.

So – onward and upward!

Topping out ceremony for our new community health centre

Hornsey Hospital topping out ceremonyTuesday was a celebration day – for the new community health centre on the site of the old Hornsey Central Hospital as was. I was in attendance to lay the topping out stone. It’s a tradition in the building industry when the building reaches the top floor. There are now only about nine months to go before actual completion and handover.

Yes – there has been lots of controversy about the new community health centre – but my own view is that given the undertaking that there will be no reduction in number of GPs in the borough, everyone will be able to keep their own family doctor and that there would be no more than a ‘reasonable’ walk to them – then what we will gain in terms of better health facilities in Hornsey & Wood Green is to be celebrated.

Anyway – here’s the little speech I made – which will give you my full views:

I am absolutely delighted to be here today to celebrate the Topping Out of our new Neighbourhood Health Center – the Hornsey Central Hospital – as was.

This is an unbelievable day to have dawned!

Having campaigned with local people – originally against its closure – and then through all its incarnations on its way to today’s ceremony – it’s been a long road.

I have always believed that the west of Haringey borough, Hornsey & Wood Green, has tremendous need for additional and better health facilities to be provided for the local community.

I am sure members of our local health trust will agree that the people of Hornsey & Wood Green are a demanding bunch – and rightly so. In one way we are a highly articulate group of people who will give any public authority a run for their money in making sure we are heard.

And in another way we also are a group with a very great demand for health care because of high levels of poverty and deprivation.

I have high aspirations that this new medical facility will contribute significantly to improve the health outcomes for both these groups. This is why have campaigned so hard for so long to help make this happen.

I want to put on record my thanks to Richard Sumray, Chair of the Trust, who long ago at one of my many meetings haranguing him over the years to deliver on a replacement health facility for the old Hospital, promised me that he saw the same need in the west of the Borough that I saw.

And that he was committed to fighting to get the funding to deliver such a facility – no easy task. And he has delivered on that promise.

I have no doubt there will be battles ahead.

Transport for London has still yet to deliver on its verbal commitment to me to improve transport links for the new hospital – absolutely vital.

We also cannot ignore the fears of some in our community that this shiny new hospital will diminish the primary healthcare that local residents have known for generations with an end to a GP who knows your name and your personal medical history.

In my discussions – the Trust has made it clear that this will not be the case – and that there will be no overall reduction in the number of GPs in the borough; that we will be able to retain our own family GP and that we will have a reasonable walk to that GP.

I therefore urge the Trust to continue the work to engage with local people – listen to their concerns and to act to allay their fears.

This will be a community facility so it is vitally important that the community have a full say each step of the way.

There still remain plenty of i’s to dot and t’s to cross, but I hope everyone here today will join me in celebrating what we hope will be a new dawn in the provision of health facilities in Haringey.

Hornsey Hospital update

Well – tomorrow, I will be laying a tile for the ‘topping out’ ceremony for the new health centre on the site of the old Hornsey Hospital. Funnily enough, the Liberal Democrats did a health survey not that long ago to find out what local people wanted in terms of their local health care.

When asked what services they wanted to see in the facility, local residents supported a wide range of health services, including, x-ray services (59%) emergency care (54%) and homeopathic and alternative therapies (26%). Survey responses was received from 1,281 Haringey residents.

As we reach the point where the building is nearly ready – we need to know what is going to go in it. Local residents do not want to see a reduction in number of GPs or mass forced relocations of local practices. But this is only one part of the story. I have been campaigning with local residents for over a decade to get Hornsey Hospital re-opened. To be called a hospital it must have more than basic GP services. Our survey has show there is significant demand for wider services. This is real opportunity; the Heath Trust must act now to engage with local people. It is very clear that local people don’t want Hornsey Central to be just an enormous GP clinic. They want new hospital services brought onto the site.

Polyclinics: panacea or plague?

Polyclinics are turning out to be one of those slow-burning political issues which, although getting the occasional piece of news coverage, have really been bubbling away in the public’s mind and concerns for a long time before really grabbing the forefront of political attention.

The possible introduction of polyclinics has been an issue in Haringey for some time now, and it’s a topic I’ve blogged about moderately regularly – but nearly each time I’ve been struck when going to research further information on the topic or to see what other people have been saying, how little attention overall the issue has been getting. Yes, there’s been the occasional news story and occasional reference in Parliament, but for an issue that could massively alter the way tens of millions of people get their health care via the NHS, it’s really been pretty low key.

The recent news that over 1 million people have signed a petition on the issue – along with the major Kings Fund report into the topic – may well change that now!

I certainly hope so, because the introduction of Polyclinics, or Neighbourhood Health Centres, or whatever the government has tried to re-brand them as this week is the biggest health issue facing my constituency – and many others – at the moment.

The idea behind these centres has some attractions – bring different health services together on one site so that you can move quickly and easily between those services without the usual delays (go to one place, get referred to another, wait for appointment) or the extra travel.

Haringey’s Primary Care Trust has chosen to be a trail blazer for Polyclinics and has enthusiastically adopted the idea. The current proposal is to close a number of local GP’s surgeries and consolidate them into four or five Polyclinics.

And that’s where the concerns start. Will these become large impersonal services where we are no longer able to see our own local doctor? We need guarantees that the relationship with your doctor will continue. Any severing the doctor/patient relationship would be a travesty. Hardly anyone wants to explain a deeply personal medical problem to a complete stranger.

Consolidation of GP’s will undoubtedly increase journey times for many people wishing to see their GP, and force them to take either public transport or their car. The heaviest users of primary care have low levels of car ownership (senior citizens 69% no car; lone parents 42%).

It’s easy for those of us who have no trouble getting around to under-estimate just what a burden it can be to extend someone’s 10 minute journey into a 30 minute with two bus changes journey.

The site of the old Hornsey Hospital is where one of the proposed polyclinics is to be built. This site is currently served by only one bus route and it takes Transport for London anything from two years to establish a bus route. This means that those with the most need would most likely have the least access to the service. I met with TfL and raised the issue of public transport provision to this site several years ago and recently raised it with Peter Hendy – the Transport Commissioner for London. But as yet – no firm plans.

Sorting out adequate access to the services should be central to any polyclinics plan – not an afterthought to play around with after the service is in place and people are already suffering from poor transport links.

The recent report by the Kings Fund concluded that there were “serious risks to access to care” posed by consolidation of primary health care and that “it is unlikely that the gains in access to some services currently provided in hospitals are worth the losses for primary care patients.”
Accessibility of service, both in terms of getting an appointment and getting to the appointment, is vital – especially as 90% of access to the NHS is via the primary care route.

And then there is the question of whether polyclinics will really add to our services and facilities? Or will consolidation mean – as it has in so many other areas – cuts?

That brings me to the problems over how the policy is being pushed through – without proper consultation or information. It’s a central imposition of Labour’s ideas on to local communities. Local health bodies have been instructed by central government that they must have polyclinics in every community. This is a classic top-down, Whitehall imposed centralising solution to local problems.

As with our post offices, we were promised that local opinion would be taken account of through consultation. Yet so far we have not been told precisely which services will be provided by polyclinics. This renders the consultation process pretty meaningless as we cannot make an informed choice about what we will gain. And so we are marching on blind – not knowing and having to keep our fingers crossed.

Hornsey Central Hospital: the latest plans

Haringey PCT presented their update on Hornsey Hospital to a meeting yesterday. The good news (potentially) is that they have financial closure and the building will be built. The battle now is over what services get provided, which GPs will be based there, how local pharmacies will be impacted as they want a bit of a pharmacy on site, whether extra public transport can be provided (it is served only by one bus currently) and how all of this will be decided. Will consultation be wide and reach all users and stakeholders? And will we and our GPs be listened to?

It was an extremely robust meeting. The Better Local Healthcare Campaign group are extremely concerned that this is a privatisation of our health care. They raised the issue of the building actually being used for residential or commercial purposes. Richard Sumray, the Chair of Haringey PCT, denied this categorically and said whilst it had been in early proposals as alternatives – it had fallen as they had managed to find funding without the need for either of those proposals.

There is no doubt that there will be some private provision. That is Labour’s avowed proposition – that 15% of our health provision will come from the private sector. However, from what I could tell at the meeting, there is a fundamental commitment to this being and remaining an NHS service. I guess that we all have so little faith in what the Labour government tells us – especially because there have been so many varied incarnations of promises on Hornsey Hospital – that we are all concerned that what we are told may not be what happens.

My key issue is GP practices. The Trust is quite clear that some current GPs will have to move into the new, super-centre – otherwise it would not be viable. They deny absolutely that they are looking for a 50,000 patient list – but that they will commence with 15,000 rising to 25,000 years hence. Moreover – all practices will be able to use the new facilities – and thus a network of better health services will be provided locally.

My concern, which I raised pretty strongly, was that all the GPs and practices are really brought into the planning of this new facility. I have had reports from GPs of feeling pressured, being concerned that if they don’t move in or do what the Trust wants they will be punished financially and so on. So I asked the Chair about coercion, punishment, engagement etc with GPs and they absolutely promised that this (engagement, not punishment!) starts now. If they do work together – then this could be a real step forward. If the Trust steamrollers its way through and doesn’t listen to local people and GPs – it will be the opposite.

In terms of the concerns around local pharmacies in Crouch End being adversely affected – the Trust seems to be talking to them about them forming a collective to run the new pharmacy themselves. If this could come to fruition that would be a good way forward and an inclusive one. I haven’t heard recently from the local pharmacies – so I hope that it is as we were told at the meeting.

Lastly – transport. You couldn’t choose a worse placed site for lack of public transport. Only one bus now runs there. I have twice met with Peter Hendy, Commissioner of Transport in London on this issue – as the last thing we should be creating is more car journeys or poor access to such a facility for local people. On each occasion Peter has said – when it is a live project – let me know.

Well – with financial closure this is very live! And as my Lib Dem colleague Cllr Gail Engert (Muswell Hill) pointed out – it takes Transport for London a couple of years generally to get going on a new route (let alone the decade it took for the 603). So after the meeting I suggested to Richard that now is the moment to really push the transport aspect forward.

More generally – Richard Sumray has promised that over the coming weeks and months we will be given specifics and be consulted on this. I have over the recent weeks put out a health survey door to door (cos not everyone goes to these meetings or even hears about them) and part of the health survey is about what local people want at Hornsey Hospital. When they all come back – I will be feeding in the views to the Health Trust too.

A trio of local issues

Evening sees Crouch End, Hornsey and Stroud Green Assembly. First big issue was the new Hornsey Depot development – where we are all worried that the development will steamroller ahead without taking heed of what local people want, albeit that there will be a process of consultation (a development forum prior to planning). Many concerns around school places, health facilities, more traffic and so on!

Then we had a presentation from the local Health Trust on Hornsey Hospital. I remain of the view that this hasn’t been thought through. We must not lose our local GP practises and the services must be what are needed not just what the Trust wants to give us. We need actual detail – none of which is really definitive to date. We want a replacement health facility for Hornsey Hospital – that means additional services to those we have now – and more doctors – not just nicking our existing ones from their local bases and centralising them on the Hornsey site.

Lastly – Parkland Walk. The results of the consultation held at Hornsey Town Hall showed (and we could have told them) that people wanted it first and foremost as a Nature Reserve, then for pedestrians then cyclists; that the drainage was the key priority for improvements, followed by repairs and better access to the walk and so on. Thank goodness local people rallied to the cause – and hopefully Haringey Council will now meet the consultation results with appropriate action.

Muswell Hill Library and Hornsey Central Hospital

Muswell Hill and Highgate Neighbourhood Assembly – centred for its theme on older people in the area. Featuring were both the plans for Hornsey Hospital to become a polyclinic and the abandoning of the idea from Haringey for a restaurant in the centre of Muswell Hill Library – at which we cheered as the detailed case had never been made for it.

On the rest of the plans for the library (which is much in need of care) – there was still no timetable at all – and the Director of Libraries who was there didn’t know the timetable and didn’t have information about some of the basics of the plans. Not impressive. And the tragedy is that some of the ideas that have been talked about have been excellent – but it’s all being lost in a mess of vagueness and foot dragging.

And then the poor woman presenting the Hornsey Hospital update got it in the neck for the shameful consultation process taking place at present on the local Primary Care Strategy. Sue Hessel said that only seven people attended the first meeting and the second which is tomorrow night may attract just as few. They said they were happy to go to other meetings if invited but as I pointed out – having a meeting isn’t consultation – nothing like. So I’ve written my Highgate Handbook and Muswell Hill Flyer column on this issue (will post after it is published) as local people need to know what is going on.

Update: my article about polyclinics is now here.