Information about my work as a Labour Councillor for East Finchley in the London Borough of Barnet

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Health scrutiny can be fun!

Or not.

The Joint Overview & Scrutiny Committe (JOSC), which covers the health service in Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington, was very informative. I think I have an accurate picture of what is going on, but will happily correct anything inaccurate.

Mark Easton, the Chief Executive of Barent and Chase Farm Hospitals, turned up. I have waited some time to meet Mr. Easton, as an error meant that he was unavailable to turn up to the last Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC)  in Barnet. Never mind, perhaps the gentleman sitting next to me who said that transparency in BCFH was poor was wrong. I hate criticising individuals, especially officers who can't reply to public criticism, but you will see later my concerns with our relationship with Mr. Easton.

Alison Cornelius, chair of Barnet's HOSC, has been battling for some time to clear up confusion (ahem) about changes at Barnet Hospital. Essentially, the maternity and A & E at Chase farm is being moved to Barnet. Okay. 20,000 extra visitors to barnet Hospital, which as we know is already bursting at the seams for parking spaces, and you have to spend an interminable amount of time looking for parking there. We can deal with that though, human ingenuity et al. Apparently, according to Barnet hospital, they only need 21 extra places to cope with the move of, lets say it again, the entire maternity and A & E from Chase Farm. Ok.

But hold on, isn't expanding the hospital to cater to the enlarged maternity and A & E going to cost some parking spaces? Yes, 19 in fact, so the actual net requirement is for 40 spaces. They have identified 28, by allowing people to park on the cycle lane. How nice, if not inconsistent with their view that they could keep down staff car numbers by encouraging cycling and public transport.

Only 12 more to go.

Wait a second! Barnet Hospital? Didn't they knock down the old workhouse, which was locally listed, during the original rebuilding of the hospital to create extra car parking spaces? Yes they did, but sadly, the site has, literally, been a pile of rubble for about 7 years. That's 7 years of parking problems that could have been eased slightly if they had turne it into a car park, as they planned to. I wonder how much it would have cost back then, and how much revenue might have been raised, since they are pay parks. £200,000 a year maybe? £1.4 million potentially lost out. I don't think turning it into a car park back then would have cost £1.4 million, so in fact it would already be mking money for the hospital, and of course helping ease a problem.

But that is not really a solution anymore, they want to sell of the land to developers to help balance their books this year. Quelle horreur! Now they are looking into a multi story car park. Is that going to cost less than the workhouse site? Doubt it, but the question is going in.

Alison was very clever, and ambushed Mr. Easton by saying that she had surveyed the car parks and neighbouring roads, and found 135 Doctor's cars on one day and 150 on the second. So finding a suitable amount of parking spaces for staff would be a great help, as well as improving the quality of life for the hospital's neighbours.

And then I spoke an unnamed individual, who said that Enfield were already suffering serious problems registering  births, and were sending people to Barnet, which is going at full pelt itself. Now how is Barnet going to cope with registering 3,000 extra births a year? Not good planning, but let's see.

Mr. Easton then got into trouble with the committee chair, Cllr Martin Klute of Islington, who said that the news that Barnet and Chase farm were looking to rope the Royal Free into their bid for foundation trust should not come to a scrutiny committee via the press. Apparently the attempts to do this with the North Middlesex Hospital didn't wok out because of financial stringency rules, or something along those lines.

The rest of the committe was less interesting, if no less important. I was highly impressed by a presentation on integrated health care in Camden, and I commend the work there. I don't know the names of the individuals who gave the report, but I was very happy to see what they had done.

But you see my concerns with Barnet Hospital, and how we have not had sufficient co-operation, despite Alison's best efforts. There should have been proper consultation before the planning application to extend the hospital went in. Mr Easton said that their whole plan was only viable if planning permission is granted in August. Talk about holding a gun to your head. I felt that was a risable comment. I know that the members of the Planning and Environment committee are experienced, and, quite rightly, will only assess the application based on it's merits and planning considerations.