Friday, 1 May 2009

Healthy Debate

Last night I attended a meeting of the Stop Haringey Health Cuts Coalition. The purpose of the meeting was to plan the key issues to focus upon and the ways in which the group is going to campaign.

The coalition has had some notable successes over the years. Less doctors surgeries are going to move into the Hornsey Polyclinic than was at first suggested, meaning that less people in the area will lose their local surgeries – hopefully. This makes sense not just from a practical point of view – who feels like travelling when they are ill? – but also from an environmental perspective.

The group also have done much to encourage the PCT to carry out consultations, though this still doesn’t always happen. Last year the Highgate baby clinic closed with one week’s notice, and with no consultation at all. Also, consultations can often be a paper exercise, with decisions made before the public have their say.

Stop Haringey Health Cuts Coalition have been tireless in attending the council’s overview and scrutiny committee and demanding that councillors act in the best interest of the health of residents. The group feel, though, that they usually do not get listened to – and they were famously chucked out of a meeting, of course!

It was agreed to make the broad issues for the campaign to be fighting cuts and opposing creeping/galloping privatisation. I stressed that we need to make sure that the campaign has a local focus: people generally won’t get interested unless they know how the cuts/privatisation will affect them and their families. Local GPs closing down will impact on people’s lives very quickly, and very negatively.

But the issue isn’t simple. A Unison representative at the meeting said that in the East of the borough, there are lots of ‘crap doctors’, and that fighting to keep them working would be pointless.

Another interesting piece of information that the Unison rep imparted was that yesterday some of the mental health patients from St. Ann’s Hospital had been moved to Edgware. The reason for this is that some of the wards at St Ann’s have been declared unfit for human habitation. Anyone who saw the recent photos of some of the rooms inside the hospital would certainly agree.

A productive meeting, then, with many new people attending, myself included. I suggested that we carry out our own consultation with residents, so that we can prove that we have the weight of public support behind us: it is easy to assume we know how other people feel, but as the issue of the ‘crap doctors’ illustrates, things are rarely black and white. We need to engage with the complex issues and problems within the NHS and offer tangible solutions, whether at a local or national level.

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