Sunday, 27 September 2009

Healthy Haringey?

Having travelled past the variously-named Hornsey Poly-Clinic/Hornsey Central Hospital/Hornsey Neighbourhood Health Centre on the bus umpteen times, it was good today to final get the chance to visit.

It was the AGM of NHS Haringey (formerly Haringey PCT – do keep up!),and I attended with my ‘Defend Haringey Health Services’ hat on.

The building is an odd combination of steel and glass with the war memorial (which was on the site already) tacked on the front, at an angle. Patients whose doctors have moved into the building have complained that they cannot hear their name being called because of the acoustics.

There’s a café downstairs run by Muswell Hill’s ‘Feast’ – good to see a local business getting the franchise, I thought, though a quick glance showed that their environmental credentials needed improving. Bottled water – so 5 years ago! If the land at the back of the building is turned into a community garden, a plan which is on the table, perhaps fruit and veg could be grown there and used in the café?

Richard Sumray, chair of NHS Haringey, kicked off the AGM by saying that resources are getting tighter – a point underlined by Harry Turner, Corporate Director of Finance. Who said there had already been a small cut in spending on primary care services.

They hadn’t scheduled questions, but we activists didn’t let that stop us. I asked where the cuts in primary care services had been, and on top of that, whether the Executives planned to take a pay cut? After all, Tracey Baldwin, Chief Executive of NHS Haringey, reportedly earned £190,000 last year.

Ms. Baldwin laughed at my suggestion and patiently explained that their wages are determined by the Government’s pay scales and there isn’t anything they can do about it. (I’ll let you insert your own comment here!)

We also asked what the plans were for the building – much of it is empty still. We were told that they don’t really know what’s going into it (the Millennium Dome situation springs to mind!) but it’ll be what we the patients want.

So here’s my wish-list: I’d like a good, sympathetic Dr I see often and can build up a relationship with, thus getting continuity of care.I’d like a baby clinic, more podiatrists and mental health provision. I’d like to see a user board that properly represents the community and has a real say about how things are run.

But here’s the big ask: I’d like to then pick this up and put it in a small practice, within walking distance, so people don’t have to get two buses to get there, especially when they’re feeling unwell.

When I brought up some of these points I was told that people don’t mind travelling on two buses if they are going to a nice building. I was told that mothers want to go to the polyclinic (again, because it’s a sexy building – supposedly). My reply: I’m a mother. I don’t. I want to go to the one around the corner (which was closed down with one week’s notice). I was also told that people don’t care about seeing the same GP and that is why they often go to A&E.

I love the NHS, and to see it taken apart before my eyes was thoroughly depressing. Let’s defend our local doctor’s surgeries whilst we still have them!

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