Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Voting with our feet!

Tonight I attended the Hornsey Neighbourhood Health Centre's user group meeting. We were told that the meetings would include us all working towards an NVQ in volunteering, and would include homework. We 'Defend Haringey's Health Service' people suggested that the NHS Haringey staff, who were dominating the meeting, let the people decide what they wanted to do instead.

We were talked over and patronised for our efforts.

Why had the user group not been advertised more widely, we asked? Why had they not made an effort to be more inclusive?

I explained how the Royal Free Maternity Services Committee works (I am a member). It certainly isn't a perfect arrangement but it doesn't involve homework, which the time-pressured amongst us (wait a minute, that's everyone!) might be put off by.

The predominant feeling was that whilst the NHS Haringey staff were claiming to want to listen to us patients, the very opposite was the case.

So we walked out. But they haven't heard the last of us, of course! Veteran campaigners such as Janet Shapiro, who have a wealth of knowledge, will never be silenced when it comes to something as important as our health service.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Haringey gets a little greener!

In partnership with Haringey Council's library service, The Energy Saving Trust Advice Centre for London is making 100 energy monitors available to library users to help them cut electricity costs. I suggested the idea to the Homes Group at the Sustainable Haringey Network Spring Gathering earlier this year.

I knew that Lewisham Green Party had done this in their borough and I thought it would be an easy and effective thing that Haringey could do too. It’s a simple idea which will help people both lessen their carbon footprint and save themselves some money.

Library users can borrow these special devices - wireless energy monitors - which show how much electricity is being used in the home and how much it is costing.
Borrowers will instantly be able to find out which electrical appliances are costing them the most money to run.

The monitors are easy to install, a simple fact sheet on how to fit them is provided, and they come with a portable display showing how much electricity is being used in costs per hour, kilowatts or and associated greenhouse gases emitted.

Every library user who borrows an energy monitor will also receive two free energy saving light bulbs to help them decrease their energy consumption and electricity bills by up to £16 a year.

In Lewisham, where the meters have been available to borrow from libraries since last year, householders have reduced energy consumption by between 5 and 15%, representing £25 to £75 from a £500 bill.

Residents can also attend a free Home Energy Doctor drop-in session to get advice on energy efficiency in the home and how that could save up to £300 per annum on home energy bills.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Result for Carlisle Road!

A few weeks ago I visited the residents of Carlisle Road, with my fellow Stroud Green candidate Anna Bragga. It's a tiny road in the south of the ward but despite being a dead-end has no sign up to indicate this.

One resident told us that this meant cars constantly drive up and then cause a racket noisily reversing out.

We got onto Haringey Council and they tell us a sign is to be erected very soon. Hurrah! We hope the Carlisle Road residents notice a lot less revving of engines very soon.

It's just one example of the little things we're already achieving for the people of Stroud Green. I get a real sense of satisfaction from stuff like this - which probably means that being a councillor, whilst being challenging, should be an enjoyable business.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Healthy Way Forward?

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 at 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 said 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, getting continuity of care, and can build up a relationship with. 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!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Haringey's Health, Historically

Fact fans - some fascinating historical background regarding the fate of the borough's hospitals - written by Sue Hessel, Vulnerable Groups Officer (Haringey Federation of Residents’ Associations)

In the 1980s Haringey had six hospitals:

From 1948 St. Ann’s was a General Hospital, and by 1973 it had 586 beds. There is no general hospital in the whole of Haringey now and in April of this year what was left of St. Ann’s was threatened with closure due to its filthy state.

The Prince of Wales Hospital in Tottenham, with its 204 beds, was closed down in 1983 with the promise that it would become an "integrated health facility". By the 1990s it had become luxury flats and serves to show us that we should never believe what we are told!

Wood Green and Southgate Hospital was closed in 1991 to become 30 sheltered flats (Passmore Edwards House).

Coppets Wood, Muswell Hill served as one of only 2 isolation hospitals in Britain for hazardous infections from the 1933 until 2000. It is now luxury housing.

Southwood Hospital, Highgate also became luxury housing in 2003.

The doors of Hornsey Central Hospital were closed to patients in 2000. I bet lots of local readers can remember the days when it had three wards, an operating theatre, busy clinics staffed by Whittington Consultants in Ear Nose and Throat, haematology (blood tests), radiotherapy, maternity, gynaecology, as well as physiotherapy. Later it served the elderly population and there are many happy memories of the warmth and care and community spirit that our local elderly received here, and a contrast to the reports we read now about hospital care of the elderly.

After nine years of no services on the Hornsey Hospital site it has now been rebuilt as a huge GP centre causing the closure of local more accessible GP surgeries in the process - at cost particularly to the elderly and disabled who will find the travelling harder.

When you look at Haringey PCT’s finances it is difficult to imagine that the public purse will be able to afford many extra health services in here.

From April 2009 Haringey PCT have committed present and future taxpayers to pay rent for this building of £873,000 each year for the next 30 years. This year they had to find an additional £254,000 to pay for its furniture and fittings.

(source Haringey PCT annual accounts 2008/2009 –p28and 29 appendix of May 2009 Board papers - not on line for some reason but I have a hard copy!)

(Haringey PCT’s Lordship Lane Health Centre site has a rent of £712,000pa for 25 years, since May 2007.)

Lots more health cuts are on the way. In April Haringey PCT reported a financial gap of £16m in achieving balanced budget for 09/10. This year there is a new savings target of £3.5m.

They had to find an extra £130,000 to pay for the administrative costs of the Baby P inquiry (which concluded with Tracy Baldwin’s resounding apology for their part in the scandal).

Last year Chief Executive Officer of Haringey PCT, Tracy Baldwin, received £190,000pa - about the same as the Prime Minister! (who is paid £197,000)
Finance Director, Harry Turner, received £164,000pa.

The managers of the PCT are the NHS equivalent of the bankers. They take huge salaries and it is they who are responsible for the reduction in our health services.

There has been a massive increase in health bureaucracy since the government brought in Primary Care Trusts. Guess how many administrators it took to run the whole of Hornsey Central Hospital? ONE. This was Mrs. Brice with her two assistants. The medical staff including Matron did the rest!

Now the government has finally owned up that the finances are in a mess and we need to start looking at "efficiency savings," perhaps it’s time Haringey health managers started getting a taste of their own medicine?

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Lordship Rec Festival

Lordship Rec Festival took place today, and the sun shone like it was July! This helped draw in the crowds and it was quite the place to be. Stalls, sheep, live music, the Food Co-op...cake competitions (see above), pony rides - and people from all backgrounds enjoying themselves hugely.

I was on the Sustainable Haringey Network stall with my colleagues Pamela and others, letting people know about our upcoming plans.

It was fun playing 'spot the councillor' - there were several around, munching candyfloss and talking with the residents. (The candyfloss aspect might be a slight fabrication).

There was a fantastic 'weird shaped fruit and veg' competition, including a 2lb potato which closely resembled Johnny Vegas.

All the fun of the fair.