Report back – Whittington A&E meeting

Whittington Hospital public meetingIt really was a packed hall – and very hot! Nearly 400 people came to question Rachel Tyndall (Chair of the Review panel putting forward the proposals on A&E, maternity and all) and Richard Sumray (Chair of Haringey PCT). Robert Gorrie facilitated the meeting (LibDemCouncil leader). Having told the hall he was LibDem Leader – that was the extent of party politics – there were none on the night – this was a meeting for real people to question the health bosses.

There was never going to be enough time for all the questions and comment and the answers that were given, on the whole, weren’t as tight or definitive as all of us would want. An example would be – if everyone rejects the proposal in the coming consultation – will you keep the A&E open?’ Needless to say the answer was alog the ‘we can’t say what will be in the consultation at this point’.

However, Rachel Tyndall was pretty upfront about one of the models for the future closing A&E which would see it replaced by an urgent care centre. She also talked quite a lot about money and the fact it was going to flatline now in this economy whilst the demand grows – thus leaving a massive budgetary hole down the line.

Here are some of the questions and answers – but there were many so this is a summation – but many missing am sure.

Those who came were magnificent – and asked many of the questions that needed to be asked. Is this privatisation? Ms Tyndall: if the private sector offers something better – that is what people want. Have you done any of the social science research – ie finding out from people about their usage? Sumray: yes we have and we have consulted with people. (Author’s note – the consultation with ‘people’ was eighty people. Across five boroughs that is not exactly a good sample). Accessibility of the site and travel and transport: Sumray – we will do a transport report. One of the audience kindly pointed out (accurately) that Hornsey Hospital has been built and still only has the same one bus it had before the new facility was there. How can the Royal Free take 80,000 from the Whittington on top of the 90,000 already going there? It won’t be 80,000 as so many can be treated in other ways. Follow on questions: so if 30,000 people are going to go to an out of hours GP instead of A&E – where are those doctors coming from? Not answered. What about people dying from extra journey times? Ah- but they will get better care when they get there. What are the criteria for consultation? There aren’t any yet. Where will the decision be made? It will be made by the joint committee of the five local PCTs. What about the high infant mortality rate? If A&E go – that will get worse. It isn’t the birth bit that is the problem – most deaths happen in the first year after birth. Have you got the figures for what it costs to run the Whittington as I asked last time at the last meeting? No I still don’t have them but if you give me your name and address I will make sure you get them.

There are many issues to cover – but one outstanding case was made re the numbers and type of need of the users of A&E. A couple of days before the meeting – we were notified that Rachel Tyndall was bringing a clinician to answer any medical/clinical questions. So I decided I needed to meet fire with fire – and found Ben Timmis, a Consultant at the Whittington, who is Chair of the Whittington Hospital Support Committee, which is a newly formed sub-committee of the main hospital Medical Committee – the medical advisory structure of the hospital.

One of the audience asked a question to the clinician, Philippa Curran, speaking for the Review Panel (as Ms Tyndall had kept banging home the point that this whole thing was clinically led) as to whether she really believed this would deliver better health care. I think Ms Curran was very nervous – and made a complete hash of the answer – inferring that people feeling unwell needed to consider whether it was serious and then make a decision as to which hospital to go to. The audience just laughed and she lost all credibility. It was pretty harsh for her – but it absolutely proved the case that when the Trust and Review panel claim this is clinician led – it is pretty dubious as to what that actually means.

Then Ben Timmis was called and this is a real super-point that takes away from the health bosses claim that out of the 80,000 visits to the Whittington A&E half could be seen elsewhere.

I can’t remember the exact figures (and won’t have my notes until tomorrow) but out of that 80,000, something like 15,000 are admitted, a further 30,000 are treated and then go home – but this is the one I hadn’t even thought of – another 30,000 need the sort of investigative tests, examination and so on to make sure it isn’t something more serious and then can be sent home if in the clear. And Mr Timmis made it crystal clear that these examinations to eliminate a serious illness etc can ONLY be done in a proper A&E department. Game, set and match I thought!

I wish we could have had another couple of hours – as there were so many people who wanted to speak but who didn’t get called. However, Rachel and Richard have agreed to come back again – and I have no doubt that both of them are under no illusions about how local people feel about our A&E!

Whittington A+E: public meeting

Here’s my latest column for the Ham & High:

Tonight, Thursday March 4, I have arranged a public meeting, where local residents will get the chance to hear at first hand what the hospital bosses have to say about the threat to the A&E at the Whittington Hospital. To represent the NHS, I have invited Rachel Tyndall, Chair of the North Central London (NCL) review panel, the body that has put forward the proposals to close the Whittington A&E, and Richard Sumray, who is chair of Haringey Primary Care Trust.

This will also be an opportunity for you to ask questions – directly to the powers that be. And I want you to be there. If we can show just how strong local feelings are about this threat, I think we might have a chance of stopping them. Following the petitions, the march and demo and the early meetings on the Whittington, we now have the NHS Strategy Document – so we now know from this latest document that there are seven draft ‘options’ for the future of the Whittington. Four out of the seven show an end to 24/7 A&E at the Whittington.

That is still deeply worrying – though some progress on the first leaked letter from Rachel Tyndall to the CEOs and Medical Directors of the relevant hospitals which had four options, all of which completely axed A&E at the Whittington.

This letter was withdrawn after the first round of outcry, but it leaves an underlying belief that the Whittington is on the hit list and that however long and complicated the document supporting the now draft seven options is – that early letter showed which way the thinking was going.

Since then the NHS line is that ‘nothing has been decided’ – but we need to know how that decision will be made. What are the criteria? Will we who use the Whittington and cannot believe the madness of the proposed closure have any real power in that consultation?  We also need to guard against being played off against each other as to which of UCH, the Royal Free, Chase Farm, Barnet, the Whittington and North Mids get to retain or offer which service.

Myself and Jeremy Corbyn agreed on the march last Saturday that we will convene all ten MPs across the five boroughs to meet with the decision makers and Ministers to let them know that we will not be divided. No divide and rule – across all five boroughs we will fight for our local health services.

We know that if the Whittington A&E goes, so too does a range of other services –  maternity, intensive therapy unit (ITU), proper training for medical students and the ability for local GPs to make emergency referrals to the hospital.

And if they go – how long before the NHS decides to let the rest wither on the vine? We have seen it all before. We marched last Saturday past the Royal Northern Hospital  – gone but not forgotten.

No-one voted for this. It was never in the Labour manifesto. The Labour Minister in answer to my many questions says ‘it is a local matter’. And yet – these quango servants to the Government hold our health in their hands – and they are not accountable to us.

They must be stopped. This is our life, our health, our NHS!

The meeting will take place as follows: Thursday, 4th March from 8 pm, Greig City Academy, Hornsey, N8 7NU.

To access the assembly hall where the meeting will be held, please use the entrance from Hillfield Avenue and follow the signs. If you have any questions, just call my office on 020 8340 5459.

UPDATE: Meeting has now taken place and you can read about it here.

Local MP urging residents to come to public meeting on future of Whittington A&E

Local MP Lynne Featherstone is this week calling on local residents to come along to a public meeting on Thursday to hear directly from health care bosses on the future of the Whittington A&E.

The meeting, which is being held at Greig City Academy in Hornsey, N8 7NU on Thursday the 4 March from 8pm, will give local residents the chance to put questions directly to Rachel Tyndall, Chair of the North Central London Review Panel, and Richard Sumray, who is Chair of NHS Haringey.

Residents who want to attend should use the Hillfield Avenue entrance to the Hornsey school, and follow the signs.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“Things have moved on since we first heard about the proposal to close the A&E. There are now seven draft options, four of which end 24 hour A&E at the Whittington.

“This is your chance to hear directly from the NHS bosses on these plans, but more importantly, this is your chance to make sure your voice is heard.

“Please come along, and bring friends and neighbours. The more of us are there to show our concern, to ask a question or just to listen and understand – the better. Together we can fight this.”

Whittington A&E march and rally

Save our A&E! Save our A&E! Save our maternity!

So rang out the chants on the march to save the Whittington A&E this morning. The rain kept mainly on the plain – thank goodness – and we marched and chanted all the way from Highbury and Islington Tube to the Whittington – where we had a huge rally.

Big thanks to the Defend the Whittington Coalition – who organised the whole caboodle – and it takes some organisation – with having Holloway Road closed off in one direction, the Whittington main entrance closed during the rally and, lovely surprise, a jazz band played all the way. The Whittington Stray Cats – I believe they said they were called.

Of course – the key issue is how do we get those making the decision to withdraw any of the proposals that they say we will be consulted on next autumn that close the Whittington A&E? For currently – out of the seven draft proposals – four end 24/7 A&E.

This is a nightmare – where the Government is calling the ultimate shots – but hiding behind its quango servants to do the dirty work.

I have organised a public meeting on March 4, 8pm at Greig Academy (entrance to assembly hall in Hillfield Avenue off High Street Hornsey. The Chair of the Review panel, Rachel Tyndall,  (putting forward the proposals) and Richard Sumray – Chair of Haringey PCT will both be there to take questions from local people.

Please come and make the case – loud and clear – for all the reasons we users know. It is clear insanity to close this vital local service.

Whittington Hospital: come to public meeting with key decision makers from the NHS

(Also on YouTube here)

It is clear from the overwhelming response to the campaign and petition that local people want the Whittington A & E to remain and remain 24/7. In fact – most people can’t believe closure is even being proposed – as to anyone locally this is madness.

But the fight doesn’t stop at a petition. On the 4th March, I have arranged a public meeting, where local residents will get the chance to hear at first hand, what the hospital bosses have to say about the threat to the A&E. To represent the NHS, I have invited Rachel Tyndall, Chair of the North Central London (NCL) review panel, the body that has put forward the proposals to close the Whittington A&E, and Richard Sumray, who is chair of Haringey Primary Care Trust.

This will also be an opportunity for you to ask questions – directly to the powers that be. And I want you to be there. If we can show just how strong local feelings are about this threat, I think we might have a chance of stopping them. We now know from the latest document that there are seven draft ‘options’ for the future of the Whittington. Four out of the seven show an end to 24/7 A&E at the Whittington.

The meeting will take place as follows:

Thursday the 4th March from 8 pm, Greig City Academy, Hornsey, N8 7NU.

To access the assembly hall where the meeting will be held, please use the entrance from Hillfield Avenue and follow the signs. If you have any questions, just call my office on 020 8340 5459.

Lastly, I also wanted to mention that I am marching, with my fellow Liberal Democrat colleagues, in protest against the potential closure on Saturday the 27th February. The march, organised by Defend the Whittington coalition, will start at Highbury Fields at 12 noon and to the Whittington Hospital.

Do come along and show your support – if you want to find more details on the march, please go to:

Thanks again for the support you have shown for our campaign, and please help spread the word about the threat to our A&E – together we can fight this!

Local MP to host public meeting on the future of the Whittington A&E

To give local residents the chance to hear directly from hospital bosses about the threat to the Whittington’s A&E, Lynne Featherstone MP will be hosting a public meeting on the issue on Thursday 4 March, at Greig City Academy, High Street, Hornsey, N8 7NU:

The meeting, which will run from 8 pm, will give local residents the chance to question Rachel Tyndall, Chair of the North Central London Review Panel, the organisation that has put forward the suggestion to close the Whittington A&E, and Richard Sumray, who is Chair of NHS Haringey.

Lynne Featherstone will also lead a group of Liberal Democrats who are marching from Highbury Fields in Islington, to Whittington Hospital on Saturday 27 February from 12 noon, to protest against the threat to the Archway emergency department, and encourages local residents to come along and show their support for the campaign.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“Local residents need to get a chance to put their concerns about the future of our A&E directly to the people in charge. And the hospital bosses need to hear how strongly we feel about these threats.

“So please come along both to the march on the 27th, and to the meeting on the 4th March. Join us and make your voice heard – together we can fight this!”

Note: The meeting will be in the school’s assembly hall and access to the hall is from Hillfield Avenue.

Our new community health centre gets its official opening

Hornsey HospitalSecond happy occasion of the day – the official opening of Hornsey Central Community Health Centre!

Given it must be about ten years since the local LibDems joined local residents campaigning against the closure of the old hospital – and campaigned continually for a new health facility on this site – today was a very special and happy day.

The new centre is fantastic – and whilst there are still issues about transport to and from – this is the state of the art sort of community health facility that we so badly need in the west of the borough.

Health Link – which works to link the health services in the borough and the community and give a proper voice to local people in all of this – had asked local children to design posters for the opening about what the new health centre represented to them. The posters were fantastic – and I happily had the best job of the day giving out the prizes. The three winning designs will be exhibited at the new centre.

So – congratulations to everyone who over the years has worked, fought, campaigned and lobbied for this to happen. And a special word of thanks to Richard Sumray – chair of the local Primary Care Trust (PCT). Despite all the obstacles and years of frustration – Richard promised me a long time ago that he was absolutely committed to seeing through onto this old hospital site the new health facility we needed. I believed him then – and he has been true to his word – down the years.

Today – is just the beginning!

Three years to the Olympics

So three years to go. I remember the day we won the bid. I was standing outside the back of the Chamber at the House of Commons – behind the Speaker’s Chair. There was that long hesitation in the announcement – as we strained to hear whether it would be a P for Paris or L for London. And when it was London – I heard a cheer go up from within the Chamber. It wasn’t dignified or Parliamentary – but totally appropriate.

I remember too – when the first inklings of our bid were swirling around the London Assembly. For it originally was Ken Livingstone, Richard Sumray and others who pushed and pushed and worked up a scheme – and who then bullied / persuaded the Government (Blair) into supporting it. Blair, once on board, played a blinder by turning up personally to the selection event.

Anyway here we are – three years away from the most exciting sporting event in this country since – well since we won the ’66 World Cup. And I know it’s expensive. And I don’t think they have made enough effort to ensure that we all benefit from the games in all our locals – whether by training facilities, grants to train kids up for the 2012 Olympics or whatever – but it will still be phenomenal for London.

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 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.