Monday, February 07, 2011

Councillors United

Last Wednesday saw a rare example of councillors uniting across the political divide to save the local accident and emergency unit. The Health Service proposal to close the unit at King Georges Hospital in Redbridge and to move the service to Romford's new Queen's Hospital has been debated for several years.

At Redbridge there is great concern about the loss of the borough's accident and emergency unit. Ambulances will take longer to get to Queen's Hospital and where accident victims are involved, time is vital. Visitors will also struggle if they don't have access to a car, as public transport to Queen's is poor in some parts of Redbridge. In some cases a two stage bus journey via Romford town centre will be unavoidable.

There is cross party opposition at Redbridge Council and on Wednesday two councillors, Bellwood and Walker, made up a delegation to Havering, urging the council to join them.

In Havering there will also be problems, because the new hospital is struggling to manage the number of patients it already serves. Lack of capacity has been an ongoing problem and there is also a shortage of visitor parking, despite the council's insistence that more places be provided when the hospital was built. Havering has many elderly people who need to use the already stretched hospital.

Furthermore, other health services have also been moved to Queen's creating more pressure on the hospital. I was surprised when my own doctor's surgery stopped taking blood samples and referred me to the hospital - being a busy person, I haven't had time to attend, and I wonder how many other patients have missed out on care in similar circumstances.

The Redbridge delegation were delighted when Havering councillors lined up to support them. I denounced the proposal as a diabolical plan that will harm the residents of both boroughs and more widely in East London and Essex. Labour leader Cllr Keith Darvill worried that the plan was risky in current circumstances. Independent Residents Association councillor Jeff Tucker pledged to leaflet his Rainham ward in support of the campaign and to bring his megaphone to any protests. Conservative Cabinet Member Cllr Robert Benham had already attended one protest march and he commended the cross party support he witnessed. Streetcare Boss Cllr Barry Tebbutt voiced his concern that the Queen's site would need substantial extra building to accommodate parking and services. Opposition Leader Cllr Clarence Barrett pledged the support of his Residents association Group.

After a passionate debate - which featured several members discussing their own experiences with the health service - the council unanimously approved the following motion:

This council agrees to oppose the withdrawal of services from King Georges Hospital to the detriment of health care for the residents of Havering, to protect and improve services at the Queen's Hospital, and requests cabinet to examine the implications of these proposals and to send a delegation of members of the council consisting of at least one representative of each political group to meet with the all party group of councillors of the London Borough of Redbridge to work with them.

A protest rally is planned for 8th April when many political leaders from both boroughs will line up to voice their opposition.


Redbridge resident said...

One of the flaws in the process for the proposed closures is that the committee overseeing it is chaired by a consultant from Newham General, Dr Mike Gibb. That fact feeds the almost inevitable suspicion that he has an underlying vested interest in the outcome.

There will be inevitably some economies of svcale within the NHS. The feeling is that King George will get the rough end of any deal that protects the interests of Newham.

The process has to change so that the scrutiny of services, and recommendations for any reorganisation, are undertaken by people without close connections to the area. In the case in question, a scrutiny group from, say, Bristol, or Birmingham, or Leeds would be seen as far more independent than somebody from Newham. Even if such an external source reached similar conclusions, they could not be interpreted as based on vested interests.

This is extremely important given that the Trust has just appointed a new Chief Executive who has what seems to be unrivalled experience of presiding over closure.

Mrs Angry said...

Interesting town hall you have: is it listed? Hope so.

Although I have sympathy with anyone fighting the closure of a hospital, I do wonder if this was in another borough whether the absence of NIMBYist realities would have you supporting the fight against closure, or whether you would feel it was a necessary part of the programme of cuts your government thinks we need?

The local hospital where I was born, and where my oldest child was born, was closed by a Tory government's decision, and has meant that the poorest healthcare facilities are now in the less advantaged western side of the borough and patients have to travel across to Barnet, the Royal Free, or even Chase Farm.

Redbridge resident said...

The hospital in the firing line, Mrs Angry, is King George Ilford, in Redbridge. "They" (ie the NHS) want us all to go to the new Queens Hospital in Romford (Havering borough) for A&E and maternity.

So this particular story is about Havering council declaring its support for the hospital in the borough next door.

It's almost as if the NHS built a hospital and then tried to find a role for it.

weggis said...

Interestingly the two hospitals where I and Mrs Weggis were born have long since been closed - Royal Northern and Poplar.
So have the hospitals where our two children were born - Plashet Grove and Forest Gate.
Coo! Even the hospital where our first grandchild was born [now 5] has closed - Harold Wood.
Second grand child born last month at Queens.......

You heard it here first.

Redbridge resident said...

I look forward, Weggis, to your family's influence continuing. Just keep their births away from King George, that's all!