What's a polyclinic?

Main meeting of the day was with Richard Sumray, Chair of Haringey Primary Care Trust (PCT). For me the key question was around the proposals for Hornsey Hospital which has now become part of the wider Primary Health Care Strategy. This strategy proposes (and is part of the London-wide strategy as well) something like six polyclinics in Haringey.

Hey – what’s this poly thingamajig – I hear you say. Well – it’s a sort of community hospital without beds – i.e. it’s a super, duper, all singing all dancing health facility with clinics for various things like diabetes, services like chiropody, diagnostics and the kitchen sink. I say that – because the array of services proposed for Hornsey Hospital is yet to be consulted on and we hope (despite our experience – so hope against hope) that the services can accommodate what local people want not simply that which is prescribed by the PCT.

There is some confusion around consultation because there is a consultation by the Enfield Haringey Health Trust on the local Primary Care Strategy – which is really with health stakeholders etc and then there is also to be a consultation on Hornsey Hospital itself.

The polyclinics really come up in the Primary Care consultation – and this may contain the key issue which I believe is what loss will there be of our local GP practices as part of the move to polyclinics? The idea is to improve local health services in these new facilities and provide some of things we are used to going to the hospital for nearer to home.

But the polyclinics will need some rental income, I believe, from GP practises based in the polyclinics. Of course – if a local GP practise moves into a polyclinic – it may mean for the ordinary person who is ill, just needs the doctor and a prescription or not without further treatment, a longer journey. That in turn raises issues of travel, access, car usage, parking and public transport connections – all very difficult.

So – on the individuality of each polyclinic – including Hornsey Hospital – Richard promised me that there would be a separate consultation – a continuance of the public meetings twice a year that we all have had on Hornsey since it was closed. I would also wish to put pressure on the consultation to demand that no area of the borough should be denuded of a local GP practice – and that any practise or doctor who wants to move in to a polyclinic ought to consult with their patient list.

The polyclinics sound great – but we have to make sure that local people have a say in what is provided and a say in what happens to their local GP practices and that there is a net gain. Perhaps local people want out of hours services, doctors that will visit in the home (which might solve some of the access issues as you don’t feel like getting on a bus when you are sick), and so on and so on.

There is so much involved in all of these changes – I have to say to people get involved, respond to the consultations. I am happy to have a spanking new facility on the Hornsey Hospital site as has been promised to me and local people for years now – but it has to deliver a great slab of what local people want and not remove the very local doctors that people rely on.

Update: you can read my article subsequent article about polyclinics here.

Lobbying for Hornsey Central Hospital

Off to the Haringey Primary Care Trust to meet its chair, Richard Sumray and Helen Brown. We (Richard Wilson, Lib Dem Health Spokesperson on Haringey Council and I) want a progress report on Hornsey Hospital, and what’s happening to clinics in Wood Green, on top-slicing, on the Government’s attitude towards District General Hospitals – and on and on.

On Hornsey Hospital it would seem that the bid is stuck on a technicality. We were assured that this was just technical and that the Health Department was looking to work it through. Our bigger interest is in what is going to be provided on site – and our 5 point prescription had a mixed reception. No – there was no need for more GPs – but yes there could be opening hours providing better service out of normal hours for local people. Good! Because thus far the GP contracts had delivered lots of dosh for doctors but not extra hours for local people.

As to the impact on pharmacists – we couldn’t manage to get them to promise that all would survive but we did manage to get a promise to supply all the local pharmacists with enough information early enough for them to bid or form a cooperative to bid for the new pharmacy.

We all agreed that it was vital to provide more public transport. Phew!

And in terms of consulting with GPs and local people we did manage to extract a ‘we can look at that’ when we put forward the need to ask far more widely what was wanted than just Haringey’s Area Assemblies. We suggested they do this through the GP practises and I think they agreed that it could be done when the consultation on the future of local Primary Care goes out. I suggested that could be a separate and special survey / piece of paper asking specifically about Hornsey Hospital.

So Lynne Featherstone MP at St Mary's School as part of National Story Telling Week– some progress I guess. I then had to leave Richard there to finish the meeting as I had to go and read a story to some of the children at St Mary’s for National Story Telling Week.

That was complete fun! I read a really ghastly tale of a boy who, to cut a long story short, watched so much television and ate so many crisps he ended up a crisp. And there was no happy ending. It was huge fun for me – certainly. I just hope the kids enjoyed it as much as I did.

Alexander Litvinenko and Neil Morrissey

Watching the evolving events surrounding the death of Alexander Litvinenko over this weekend – including TV cameras camped outside his house in Osier Crescent, which is in my constituency.

I had previously texted Richard Sumray, who is Chair of Haringey Primary Care Trust and also the person charged with the health brief in our local emergency planning team. I just wanted to be sure whether there was any action that had needed to be taken on the health front. It didn’t seem as though there was any danger of radioactive contamination – but with such dangerous and toxic substances and clearly with local neighbours being concerned, just wanted to be sure.

Also noticed that the Journal carried the story about a local phone mast controversy. It is outside Neil Morrissey‘s house. It always helps to have a ‘name’ involved in a campaign. The problem goes on and on however, and I think it’s a matter of better safe than sorry!

Hilary Benn for leader?

Labour’s continuing leadership problems have made me think about who I would pick to succeed Blair. Hilary Benn would be my man. No enemies (that I know of) but more importantly a new sort of leader – one with a genuine manner and devoid of the Blair-style demeanour that is soooooo yesterday. That will be Cameron’s problem – he is emulating a past the country is getting fed up with. Benn could supply an ideal heritage transmuted to fit a modern agenda. Perhaps that way could lie Labour renewal. Perhaps it is not really for me to intrude on private grief – but it certainly is gripping.

More basic, four and a half hours yesterday of surgery, meeting residents individually about their particular issues. It always serves to remind me of the parade of problems and challenges that never seem to lessen. After which I had my regular meeting with Cllr George Meehan, leader of Haringey Council. I had a raft of issues to raise with him:

– an update on CPZs: there will now be a second phase of consultation, where they discount the roads that didn’t want a CPZ and go back and consult with those that did.

– Noel Park Recreation Ground delays – suffice to say that the poor children have had the summer without their play equipment replaced (it was taken away during building work of a new children’s’ centre and not replaced). I had categorical assurances from the Council about finish dates that were never met. Anyway – I now have the update which promises that the work will be finished by the end of the month.

– I raised the issue of the astronomical amounts of money paid in Housing Benefit for temporary accommodation. I have had two recent cases where the tenant has been placed in quite frankly unliveable one bedroom accommodation (with man, wife and child) at a cost of around £400 per week – and this in areas where normally even in the private market you wouldn’t pay more than £200 I reckon. I know there’s a premium because of the supposed short tenure – but inevitably a temporary placement for 20 days turns into months and sometimes year. Factor that up – and the costs are unbelievable. And it keeps the people who are meant to be helped with benefits in poverty as with that high price of rent they often can’t afford a job because they would then lose so much in housing benefits that they wouldn’t be able to afford to carry on paying the rent. There are some moves to make it possible to place tenants in the private sector – but I think this needs looking at. Some landlords are raking it – and it’s not as if they are taking a risk – as the rent is paid by the state!

– business recycling is next on my list. Businesses are largely untouched by recycling – so I have ‘called on’ George to look into it. In fact, as the Council has decided (controversially) to take back recycling under their own auspices – this is an ideal moment to push home the Lib Dem campaign to introduce business recycling into the borough. And while I was at it – I lobbied for bigger recycling boxes (again)!

– I also raised some issues about the Chocolate Factory with him – but more about that later.

– and last, but not least, I have offered (as the Council hasn’t used me yet) to lobby on behalf of the Council at Parliamentary level. As I had flagged this up on the agenda prior to our meeting, George had one ready for me – the cost of asylum seekers to this borough – or more accurately to get the Government to fund the deficit between spend and available government grant. Will do. In a borough like Haringey (and when I talk to colleagues from other parts of the country who rarely see an asylum case – you can see how uneven the destinations are) we happily have more than our share of the asylum seekers who come to London – but we should not have to bear those extra costs and pressures without full Government assistance.

Last meeting of the day is with Richard Sumray about Hornsey Hospital. Once again Richard stated his commitment to the project and the Primary Care Trust of which he is Chair is hosting a public meeting on 13th. I am stirring a campaign to coincide with this with the view to adding pressure and enthusiasm to support a bid for funding. A bid is being prepared – and I think we need to go for it big time. But we will hear the detail publicly next Wednesday.

Hornsey Central Hospital

Steve Lynne Featherstone teamed up with Lib Dem Shadow Health Secrtary Steve Webb and local councillor Richard Wilson to highlight local concerns over the Hornsey Central Hospital siteWebb, LibDem Shadow Health Secretary came to Hornsey & Wood Green yesterday to meet with myself, Lib Dem colleagues and three local residents who are all massively concerned and upset about Hornsey Central Hospital – or more accurately, the lack of anything tangible in its place since it was closed nearly six years ago.

There is a bid being worked up to apply for some government funding from the cottage/community hospital funding the Government is making available to support its rhetoric around wanting more community facilities – though in reality it is doing more about concentrating its funding on acute/secondary care.

I and my colleagues are looking into what the bid will comprise and hope that we will hear more detail at the public meeting being held on the 13th September at 18:00 at the Methodist Church Hall, Middle Lane. (See here for a map).

We are determined to campaign for good facilities. We have been waiting like good children for the promises made in 2000 to be delivered – but no more Mr Nice Guys. We have all worked with the Trust at every stage – but each time it has come to naught. We believe that its Chair, Richard Sumray is committed to providing these much needed health facilities in the west of the Borough. He says he is. We know how difficult the budget process has been and the Government’s push for commissioning private services. But actions speak louder than Labour rhetoric – and we have waited long enough!

We (me plus councillors Richard Wilson and David Winskill) took Steve Webb to Hornsey Hospital and met with some local health campaigners to discuss the best way to take forward the campaign for Hornsey Hospital and the wider issues around the effect of the serious cuts Haringey’s Trust faces. The cuts have already led less sexual health clinics and reductions in rehabilitation beds for older people.

So let’s see what happens on the 13th. Hopefully Richard Sumray will say it’s all going ahead just as local people were promised…

And in the meantime, don’t forget – you can see our film on the issue:


Scouts, hospital and interns

Off to the Scout Park again for photo op with local commander Simon O’Brian and Ken Ranson (of Scouting Association), two of the Safer Neighbourhood officers from Bounds Green ward and Cllr John Oakes – local councillor. We are there to meet local photographers from local papers to push hard for funding to build replacement buildings for the ones currently not ‘fit for purpose’. They are not only not fit but actually in such a state of disrepair that they can’t be used.

I am a big fan of this project. I’ve written the strongest supporting letters I know how to do to support the lottery and heritage bids. I want it for the Scouts – but I also want this amazing eight square hectares of open space in the middle of Bounds Green (that almost nobody even knows exists) to be opened up for all the local young people.

The Scouts will obviously use what they need first – but that leaves oodles of opportunities for our local youngsters. The two Safer Neighbourhood officers are running a scheme this summer for youngsters from Bounds Green between the ages of 13 and 18 to come and do outside activities. And I would like to see a mix it up program which takes kids from all the different schools – so they are not necessarily with their peer groups – and throw them together for a week of outdoors activities. The buildings and open spaces can be hired for meetings and events. There is so much that could be made of this space.

Back to the constituency office for a management meeting. I am trying to arrange a meeting with Richard Sumray – Chair of Haringey Primary Care Trust (PCT) – to push forward the Hornsey Hospital redevelopment. With the dosh now available from the government there is a possible opportunity of forcing the pace.

The hospital closed despite a massive local campaign – and the deal with the campaigners was that it would be redeveloped as a local community health facility with respite care beds etc. etc. It must be something like four or so years since we have been meeting about its future with the PCT – but nothing concrete (literally) yet.

I have decided to try and force the pace on this. The Health Trust insists it must sell off a large chunk of the land – but a) this isn’t fair and b) there is not guarantee the funds will go back into this particular site. Anyway – I spoke to Richard Sumray a couple of weeks ago and he promised me a public meeting in September. I believe Richard’s assurances that he is committed to pushing the new facility through – but I want to help him by applying as much pressure as I can. My diary organiser had phoned Richard to make the appointment but he is currently in some far flung part of the world. To be continued.

I want to know what the Council are doing about the Noel Park children’s play equipment. It made it into the press when I went over there to meet parents who are outraged that their children are facing a second summer without the promised replacement equipment. I wrote to Cllr George Meehan (Labour Leader of the Council) about it – no reply yet of course. The newspaper had a quote from the council saying they were sorry there had been a delay. But I am now going to write to Ita O’Donovan – who is the Chief Executive – as I expect she will be far more able to efficiently expedite matters than George.

Then it’s in to Parliament for the last official day of sitting – so I finish up odds and sods. I pop over with Nick Clegg (Shadow Home Secretary) for a photo op on DNA and then have dinner with my researcher and interns to thank them for their really hard work. The intern system is fantastic – hopefully for both sides. Young graduates mainly, although I have taken some school leavers and gap year students, work for expenses but get useful experience and a better of idea of what such a career might really involve – and also then get to put that they have worked for an MP on their CV. They come and go relatively quickly – but I have to say I have had some wonderful young people over the last year.

Liberal Democrat leadership contest

Reading The Times this morning I would say that Chris Huhne must be doing really well in the Lib Dem leadership contest – given the number of attacks on him.

There seems to be briefings against him. The briefings say that he had agreed not to run. I believed passionately that we needed him to run for the party to have a real choice, and I wasn’t the only one. Chris did the right thing – he went to Ming and said he had changed his mind and asked if Ming would release him from his earlier commitment. Ming is a gentleman – and basically let democracy flourish. And Chris has handled this really well I think – being open and honest and saying, yes – he changed his mind.

Whether Chris or Ming wins – they will at least know that they have a genuine mandate from the party for their leadership.

Evening – I go to a small stakeholder meeting on Hornsey Hospital – a long-running saga. Having met previously with Richard Sumray to demand a public meeting to update the situation – the public meeting is finally to be on 22 February. The plans are to deliver first rate local health services to the area – but there is a price to pay. Watch this space.

In the evening Chris (leadership) Huhne is on Question Time where he gives a storming performance – aided by an astoundingly bad one by the First Minister for Wales, Rhodri Morgan. The man is a liability. Chris was really good and seems to be growing stronger and better every performance.

Hornsey Central Hospital

Early morning meeting with Richard Sumray, Chair of Haringey Primary Care Trust (PCT). I have asked him to come and update me on the proposed development of Hornsey Central Hospital. It is now years since I joined local campaigners to campaign against the closure of the old hospital and then with local campaigners to ensure that a community health facility replaced what was lost.

Richard had been hoping to have a public meeting in December but this is now delayed until January because the relevant policy paper has not yet gone to the trust’s Board and won’t do now until January. The proposed scheme – the Primary Care Resource Centre, the Healthy Living centre and other health functions yet to be decided by the practitioners – is still on but there are still some big stumbling blocks remaining before the project can proceed. The second floor of the 2nd Stage, which was to provide offices, hit a dead end when it became clear that the costs were too high. The Strategic Health Trust rejected the project as it was thought to be unaffordable. Since then Richard Sumray and the Board have been re-examining the whole project for ways of making it more affordable and therefore viable.

The redevelopment is being funded through the Government’s LIFT scheme, which means involving a private partner. The PCT consulted their private partner over the idea that the private partner take on the risk of the top floor – developing it for themselves. This would theoretically make it financially feasible, and mean that there were no major changes to the amount of health services to be provided. However, there are risks. The PCT is pretty desperate to get the plans for Hornsey Hospital finished and through by March, because otherwise they will be left with a large financial deficit at the start of the next financial year. But because of the huge level of bureaucracy involved in LIFT schemes it is even money as to whether they will make it.

In the afternoon I am see an ‘informant’. Since my days on the Met Police Authority (MPA) I have been pursuing the use of DNA in the search for an abhorrent rapist. The crimes – against old women – are an abomination and have been going on for around ten years with no success by the police in capturing the criminal.

However, in recent years the police have been trawling the black community for ‘voluntary’ DNA samples. These samples have not, in my view, been voluntary at all. 125 refusniks received an intimidatory letter from a senior detective saying that he was going to look into their reasons for refusal and then let them know of his decision. Well – if it was voluntary – no need to look into anything or decide anything. Furthermore, five of those written to continued to refuse and in the end were arrested. Two gave in at that point, and the remaining three arrested had their DNA taken – as once arrested it is compulsory.

It is so easy to say end justifies means. It is easy to see the argument that this crime is so horrific that it is right to take DNA voluntarily or otherwise. Don’t get me wrong. The police are doing a great job. But it is a complete misnomer to call this type of testing ‘voluntary’. It is clearly mandatory in practice. And if mandatory DNA testing is happening, that should only be after a proper debate results in a decision to change the rules – we shouldn’t get mandatory testing introduced by the back door. Balancing civil rights, personal freedoms and the fight against crime are tricky – which is all the more reasons why such decisions should not happen on the quiet and without proper public debate.

Since then the trail had gone somewhat cold – for me. The police still hadn’t caught the culprit. Then I got an email from someone who only recently was pulled in to give a sample on a spurious excuse and refused. He said he couldn’t put it all in an email – so today he came into see me. And he had quite a tale to tell. Needless to say – I will be pursuing this as soon as I have put together an appropriate strategy to so do. It was extremely disheartening to hear some of the treatment he encountered.

Ironically, I then dash over to Earls Court for the Met Police Authority’s Christmas do! Very nice to see everyone again. I do miss the MPA – however being LibDem spokesperson on Police, Crime and Disorder and Prisons at least keeps me in the right portfolio.

Olympic bid

Haringey Full Council meeting. For me the big issue of the night was skateboarding. Children from the borough were in the gallery to hear a motion on skateboarding provision debated.

The motion had the support of both parties but there was a bit of friction in that it was a Labour motion about all they intended to do on skateboarding (for which facilities are currently poor) – lots of promises of jam tomorrow. But to date, Labour’s much vaunted scheme had produced two days of a mobile skateboarding facility.

Now this dovetailed nicely with a presentation on the Olympic bid by Richard Sumray who is a man of many hats: Olympics, Met Police Authority, magistrate and Chair of Haringey Primary Care Trust (PCT). Busy man. He only had five minutes to present the bid – which must be the shortest presentation on the Olympics on record – in fact a world record in its own right. The general sentiment from across the chamber was ‘ what’s in it for Haringey?’ Yes – of course we all support the bid – but its a bit rough for the boroughs who will have the pain and no gain.

Who knows, perhaps we should make skateboarding an Olympic sport. Perhaps that’s quicker than waiting for Labour to fund a skate park?

Banging headache – so laid in bed feeling sorry for myself. Eventually staggered to my computer and cleared emails and paperwork and then collapsed again.

Fortified with extra-strong, super-duper level Panadol, I get up to go to a Policing Planning Panel meeting. After that I would have to go straight onto the Mansion House for the Lord Mayor of London’s Dinner for London Government.

I had telephoned Richard Sumray (a magistrate member of the Metropolitan Police Authority) and Chair of the Police Planning Panel the night before and left a plaintive cry on his message recorder. Something to the tone of – ‘are you going to wear evening dress to the meeting and can we share a taxi to the Mansion House’. I usually feel extremely guilty if I use a taxi – but there comes a point on a rainy night, with no time between commitments and very high heels – when I gracefully give in.

Richard ‘phoned back to ask which dress he should wear? Of course it was black tie for him (it’s so easy for men) – but I decided that the short red cocktail dress was too much for a police meeting, and wore a more demure trouser suit with evening top. I know this is girlie stuff – but such is political life and the demands of dress code.

Of course, dress code didn’t bother Mayor Livingstone. He didn’t bother with black tie – in fact he didn’t bother with a tie at all. The old judge sitting on my left nearly had apoplexy at the cheek of the bugger! He fulfilled all my prejudices about judges I have to say. However, on my other side was the chair of a big financial group of companies who was a

live wire – and who it was a pleasure to spend most of the evening talking too.

You are sooooooooo dependent on who you get sat next to. Over the five dinners for London Government that have happened since we were first elected, I have gone from very near the outlying tables at the far flung end to the inner ones at the top table end. At anywhere but the Corporation of London one might think this a random effect – but I think

it is deeply significant.

The think I love (and the reason I staggered from my sickbed) to this dinner is, whilst I trash tradition, eschew formality and all of that – no one does it like the Corporation. Men in uniform holding metal pikes adorn our avenue as we are announced. The service is impeccable and the processing and timing immaculate.

The rumours were that Mayor Livingstone would produce a ‘surprise’ in his speech. Well – surprise, surprise – the Government would come up with £200 million of PFI credits for the Thames Gateway Bridge. Staggered I was.

That the Government would seal its remarriage with a dowry!

Thereafter – a stirrup cup in the ante room – and then home to bed!