Haringey's health services

Surgery, then met new Head at Hornsey Girl’s School (what a great new head!), then had my usual meeting with David Sloman (CEO of Whittington Hospital – who assures me that my endless banging of the drum on how patients are treated in terms of care and compassion is now top of the list) and then on to Haringey’s new Sixth Form Centre to present a prize to one of the Haringey Heroes. This is an awards event for young people across Haringey who have showed exceptional talent, or caring, or leadership in their lives. For example – one was a carer’s award for children who have (on top of everything) to care for parents with disabilities. It is one of Haringey’s better efforts – and I was very happy to be there.

Thinking further about local health services – and watching Lord Darzi talk about the NHS plan – I am struck by the contrast between what he says – which is that polyclinics are about providing extra services – and what people are most worried about locally – which is that their doctor will be plucked from their current location and put in this amorphous ‘polyclinic’ further away.

It is still unclear to me – for example – whether our new local health facility (I doubt whether it will carry on being called a polyclinic) currently rising from a building site – will be only ‘additional’ as Darzi (and ministers) claim. When building is already taking place and this is still unclear, matters are far from as clear as they should be.

It is also still unclear what services will be provided on site and what say we the people actually will have. I have no doubt that the west of Haringey needs a new health facility and it is pretty difficult to get any money spent on us – as we are always in direct comparison to Tottenham where the need is obviously greater as an area of high deprivation and unemployment. However, there is plenty of need and unemployment this side too – and quite frankly – we all need and are entitled to proper health provision.

Visiting the Whittington

Having done my usual advice surgery this morning, this afternoon I met with David Sloman (Chief Exec of the Whittington Hospital). We had our usual discussion on the progress of their application for foundation status – which is seemingly progressing.

We then went on to discuss the issues around the Hornsey Hospital development as I suddenly saw a real possibility of how the new facility could be made to work well. David was saying that if the IT system that is installed was linked to all local practises and the Whittington – then we (the people) would get a proper health network whether we went to our local GP, or were referred on to the polyclinic (click here to read about polyclinics) or the Whittington. Also, he was saying, that it would be more natural if the local health trust were to commission the Whittington say, to facilitate the phlebotomy department (taking blood) at Hornsey Hospital or other natural extensions or outposts of the services.

Anyway – the point I made was that David needs to make sure he (and the Whittington) are at the table with the GP practises et al when the specifics of the new health facility are being hashed out. That’s why I keep saying – it could be great or it could be a disaster – it will depend on real, real partnerships and not the Trust simply saying this is what you will have.

The future for local health services

Straight on to meet David Sloman, Chief Executive at the Whittington. His issues are around the Health Strategy for London which will begin on 11th July and the Whittington’s own move towards foundation status. This is a bit different from Fortismere’s problems – firstly it is mandatory as the Government as decreed that all hospitals must do this within the next few years. What the Whittington gets out of it is the ability to plan for the long term, revised engagement in terms of real community voices in decision-making, legal and financial freedom. I will consult with colleagues on this in due course.

On the London-wide strategy: some of it seems ok – like stroke victims and heart attack victims going straight to special centres – so long as there are enough in London (i.e. not just shipping people miles away, especially as the first hours are so vital). The local community hospitals like the Whittington are fine too.

Where the battle lines will be drawn – and this refers back to what I said about Hornsey Hospital and the proposed polyclinics. For example – there will be something like five or six in Haringey each serving up to 50,000 residents and will provide super-duper clinics, diagnostics, etc etc. However, it will only financially be viable if they bring in our local GP practices to operate from there. Now – I wouldn’t mind if they swept up the individual single-handed or two men doctor practises and put them in there – that would be improving the service – but I bet they will be after our other practices and I don’t think the community will want to have the normal visit to their doctor that doesn’t require other services moved away from the local.

Maybe I am wrong. We do want after hours services which would be provided on such a site – but I though that the huge hike in doctors pay and contracts was to create extra provision. Ain’t seen nothing yet! So I suspect that may prove controversial. Polyclinics – great – but don’t take away local GP practices.

Salt Awareness Week

It’s Salt Awareness Week this week. I put toooooooo much salt in and on my food. My blood pressure is borderline high (that’s my job I reckon). But blood pressure is a silent killer – and so I am off to my local hospital, The Whittington, to visit the cardiac department. They say about two thirds of us walk around not knowing that we have high blood pressure – and the ward I am visiting, the Montuschi ward, is where we will end up if we continue to take no notice of health warnings we are told.

The Lynne Featherstone MP at Whittington HospitalWhittington has kindly arranged for me to meet the whole team taking care of patients who suffer from heart failure, attack or other heart issues. Introducing me to everyone was Dr David Patterson, who is the consultant cardiologist. I met the Head of Catering, Cecil Douglas, who has virtually banished salt from hospital food – or at least got the daily intake for patients below the 6gm max figure. He has a job and a half: to get ill people to eat something and yet give them good nutritious food that won’t cause more health problems. And yes – there are a small number of remarks about blandness, but a hospital must be an example and they give you some education in nutrition whilst you are there. The problems really are when you go home and just cook with and/or and add salt for the rest of your life.

I learned something today in particular – that the Afro-Caribbean population is even more vulnerable to these diseases and that pickles and piccalilli carries huge doses of salt.

I also met one of my constituents who happened to be there and after talking to him what concerned me is that there is seemingly no real support package for when he returns home. He is elderly with a serious heart condition – can barely move his hands through arthritis – so how is he going to cook for himself, let alone worry about things like salt content?

Anyway – a very big congratulation to the Whittington with their Charter Mark for their cardiology department’s high levels of patient care and service provision. Very impressive!

Then I meet with David Sloman, the hospital’s Chief Executive, for my two monthly ‘chat’. I have been concerned over the Government’s outrageous cash grab in terms of top-slicing from budgets of health trusts etc – thus punishing those who have maintained their budgets properly. The promise is that after three years this ‘loan’ will be returned. Pigs might fly! But I have also been worried about the Government’s aversion to District General Hospitals – which the Whittington is. Of course we must provide the very best specialist hospitals giving the best care in the world for diseases – but that is not the staple diet of need. What the Government ignores is the fact that people want their services locally – including a general hospital that can deliver the medical treatments near their homes.

Straight onto surgery at Jacksons Lane – except I get a call from Ed (my head of office) to say that having arrived at Jacksons Lane they have discovered it is closed because of building works – and no one has told us. But quick thinking Ed gets Highgate Library to let me do surgery there. Thank you Highgate Library!

350 years of Jewish History

Quarterly meeting with David Sloman, Chief Executive at the Whittington Hospital. Overall the Whittington has managed to balance its budget. Phew! But what awaits the good guys is a demand from the Government that they make ‘savings’ next year. David explains to me that there will be a capital investment (or at least that is the plan) – so that we will get it back another way. We have a discussion about the way health (and everything else) is being regionalised – and I talk about the need for nurses to be able to be caring as well as clinically excellent. So often they are rushed off their feet and so can’t give that extra personal care and attention. I remain convinced that the caring part of nursing is a keep part of medically effective treatment overall.

In the evening I get to go to 350 years of Jewish History. This is Mr Speaker’s reception for unsung heroes of the Jewish community and I go to have a drink etc. If Mr Speaker invites you – you go! In fact, I went last Monday to what I thought was this event. As I arrived, I shook hands with Mr Speaker – and in the reception line next to him was a Catholic priest. Which did strike me as odd – but… Then as I moved into the room, there were not very many people and there was a very quiet atmosphere. Jews gathered together are not normally quiet – I know ‘cos of family bashes. So I went back to Mr Speaker and asked him. And I had actually arrived at a celebration for the Apostles of the Sea! Mr Speaker kindly invited me to stay – but I said I would come back to the one he had actually invited me to the next week.

This time – the Chief Rabbi was there – and it wasn’t quiet! I met a little clutch of women from the Jewish Women’s League, a woman from Hornsey & Wood Green, the wife of the Chair of the Board of Jewish Deputies and a wonderful woman who sent people to far off places to do voluntary work. It is funny really. The Jewish population have managed to stay as a pretty firm culture and race – and assimilate at the same time. However, one woman told me that there is quite a lot of trouble and snobbishness about which type of synagogue or congregation that you belong too. There is no culture or race, I guess, who don’t have status levels. Great fun!

Boxing in Haringey

Surgery as usual in the morning. (If you are a new reader and wondering – no, I’m not a doctor in my spare time! This is when I have a series of meetings with residents who raise their individual issues with me. Normally it’s a particular problem they need help with, but also too there are people who want to meet me to raise a wider issue or concern).

This is followed by meeting with the Chief Executive of the Whittington, David Sloman. I am dreading hearing that the ruthless job-letting next door at the Royal Free is to be repeated at the Whittington. But so far so good…

I rush on to open World Tuberculosis event – which is a really good event. TB used to stalk our communities before the war. In fact my mother’s fiancé died of it. Nowadays it is curable and treatable – but back then it was touch and go. Clearly, as I exist, my mother met and married someone else – and as time went on TB became a thing of the past.

But now it is rearing its ugly head again, particularly in London – and particularly among communities where deprivation is high and among vulnerable people who have HIV/AIDS, cancer, alcoholism, etc. I remember when I was on the Health Committee at the London Assembly we looked into the rise of TB in London. The main findings then were that people, once they felt better and were back out in the community, stopped taking their medication before they should have. Anyway – the good news in Haringey and Enfield, is that treatment is free and that there are really good and committed teams working in the hospitals and the communities together to tackle this rising problem.

I have had to give my speech to the TB event in evening dress as I have to literally run off as soon as I finish speaking to what is one of my most favourite events of the year. This is the Annual Haringey Amateur Boxing Match where the Haringey Boxers fight an invited club or organisation at a proper charity dinner where funds are raised to continue funding the boxing club. It was originally set up by Stephen James (two police commanders of Haringey ago). He is still involved and the two commanders since, Stephen Bloomfield and now Simon O’Brien are also carrying on the enthusiasm and commitment.

I know- boxing has a bad name. But this is not about two men slugging it out in 15 rounds without head protection. This is well trained, well-monitored, well-refereed young people who fight three 3 minute rounds with proper head gear and so on. And the work done with kids from the most deprived areas gives a great pathway out of street life.

Before the dinner kicks off – Simon O’Brien and I go through to the boxers dressing rooms for photographs – and they give me boxing gloves to put on and pose as if I am fighting. Not sure about political correctness! But I am a fan of this type of boxing. I enjoy it. I think it does a lot of good in the communities that have the most challenges. The police have done a fantastic job with this initiative – and I understand that there are around five other boroughs starting or looking to start similar activities.

The dinner is served – and then it is on with the show. They sure come out fighting and the energy and the talent and skill are extraordinary. The fifth contest does make my jaw drop open as it is two girls fighting. I know – it’s an equal world – but it was the first time I had seen girls fight (outside of Million Dollar Baby – and that hardly had a happy ending!). They were as energetic and tough as the boys – and it really is an equality that I hadn’t expected.

I presented two of the winners with there trophies. Up close after a bout – you can see the exertion in the buckets of sweat and depth of chest heaving. Quite an extraordinary sport.

Whittington Hospital

Surgery at Wood Green library – from which I exit in order to run to the Civic Centre where the Public Inquiry on the Hornsey concrete factory plan is being held to make my statement. I do my best to make the Inspector understand that he should uphold the decision of Haringey Council to refuse the scheme. Fingers crossed. I rush back to my surgery and continue to try and help everyone who comes to me. Surgery is pretty draining. So much desperation, need and unhappiness. One man sobbed today.

Lynne Featherstone visiting Learn Direct centre, HaringeyI then go to meet the Learn Direct team and HALS – so that I can know more about what is available to skill people up so that they can engage better in work or whatever. Very impressed with the whole team. Clearly Learn Direct is helping raise education and skills for those people who, for whatever reason, missed out on some of their education.

And then last port of call of the day is a visit to meet the Chief Executive of the Whittington Hospital. Ostensibly it is a meeting so that we can meet. But I suspect from the conversation that he had been surprised by the coverage of particular complaints with regard to care that elderly people received when they were at the Whittington. I had written to the Secretary for Health describing the cases as a way of suggesting to the Minister that there needs to be some attention paid to whether these are infrequent occurrences or whether there is nationally any need to review training etc.

I found the Chief Exec extremely easy to get on with and look forward to working closely on health and public health issues. From what we discussed, the Whittington is actually doing pretty well. Forgetting the stars (not my favourite system) they are hitting their targets, they were not one of the hospitals on the recent expose of dirty hospitals and it looks like they will have a balanced budget this year. But even more importantly, I felt that Mr Sloman really cared about delivering good services at the hospital. And in the end – that is what counts the most. It is always down to people and leadership. We agree to meet quarterly to keep updated on all the key issues and hope to be able to attend the opening of the new building in the spring.