There’ll be a few sore heads around Lewisham this morning after the government’s plans to downgrade the accident and emergency department at Lewisham Hospital were quashed by the High Court. While Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health has been given leave to appeal, even this brief pause in the battle is one that’s worth celebrating. It’s a richly-deserved victory for the Save Lewisham A&E campaign and Lewisham Council, and any south-east Londoner that’s given time or money to help the campaign.

The threat to the well-run Lewisham Hospital came solely because of the disastrous financial arrangements imposed on other hospitals in south-east London, including Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, run by the South London Healthcare NHS Trust. The court’s declared that Lewisham shouldn’t suffer because of the misfortunes of other hospitals, but what will happen from October is that QEH will be taken under the wing of Lewisham Hospital’s trust. Hopefully, both the Lewisham and Woolwich hospitals will be able to keep their A&Es, but QEH will be able to improve under the skilled management of the Lewisham team.

With the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition threatening to close the neighbouring borough’s A&E, heaping pressure onto QEH, how did Greenwich borough’s Labour politicians react? Not very well. When the plans to save the stricken SLHT, including shutting Lewisham A&E, were announced at the end of October, Greenwich Council’s public health cabinet member John Fahy declared they were “better than expected but with serious negatives”. I wrote about this in November, and it’s worth reading the comments too.

Did any of Greenwich’s 40 Labour councillors propose any motion to express the council’s disapproval of the government’s plan to shut the neighbouring A&E? No. To be fair, Greenwich eventually submitted a written response pointing out the closure was wrong, but politically, Greenwich’s Labour leadership didn’t lift a finger in the council chamber. Out of sight of the leader Chris Roberts, backbench councillors asked searching questions at a meeting with the ill-fated NHS adminstrator. But none of them proposed a motion to object, and the leadership kept their mouths shut and their options open. I wrote about this in December.

Until yesterday. Greenwich’s Tory councillors, who can look like dangerous lefties compared with the Labour leadership, proposed a motion suggesting Greenwich uses some of the cash it now gets for public health to fund a clinic to ease the pressure on QEH’s A&E. Not the dumbest idea you’ll read, and an attempt to address an issue. (The motion’s item 15 at the foot of this page.)

The response of Greenwich Labour’s leadership was to propose a completely new motion condemning the government for proposing the closure of Lewisham Hospital’s A&E, and expressing relief at the court ruling.

Greenwich Council

Which would have been fine… had any of Greenwich’s Labour councillors been bothered enough to put together such a motion when Lewisham Hospital was really under threat. But they didn’t.

When there was an excuse to bash the local Tories, suddenly, they found their campaigning zeal to do what they were told to do.

London Labour Party website

There’s a London-wide Labour party campaign on emergency services cutbacks. But in Greenwich Council’s chamber, the Labour party seems exempt from this – unless there’s a bandwagon to be belatedly leapt upon.

PS. Among a load of other unedifying scenes at Wednesday’s council meeting, independent councillor Eileen Glover, who is partially-sighted, was not given large-print copies of amendments to council motions, so she ended up being unable to vote on them. She protested to mayor Angela Cornforth, but was turned down. Neither her former Tory colleagues nor her Labour counterparts seemed interested in helping her, so she sat alone, unable to take part in the votes. That’s got to be illegal, hasn’t it?

61 replies on “Greenwich councillors leap on Lewisham Hospital bandwagon”

  1. It was annoying to see Greenwich Labour candidates for 2014 join in the celebrations on Twitter about Lewisham yesterday when they had seemd to do less than nothing to help the campaign or manage the fallout for Greenwich. I was more than annoyed when I read your updates from the meeting last night.

    I sometimes wonder whether the Council’s misjudged approach to the threat to downgrade is because they figured that at least QE wasn’t being shut, so we shouldn’t make too much of a fuss lest someone start getting ideas. A responsible position – and I recognise that I don’t know enough about availability of resources for something like this – would have been to carry out research within this borough to see whether the proposals could have been sustained by QE alone.

    South East London came very close to losing a well-rated, sustainable A&E department, and I suspect Greenwich came very close to having an A&E that would have been a byword for overcrowding, long waits and poor care. Greenwich Council did not represent borough residents’ best interests throughout this saga.

  2. Nikki,

    Sadly I’m afraid Greenwich already has an A&E that is a byword for overcrowding, long waits and poor care.

    At least John Fahy is finding someone to blame, thats got to be more important that addressing the problem.


  3. Interesting that some of the people John “better than expected” Fahy blamed, spent hours helping make placards, delivering leaflets, attending meetings, going to and speaking at public meetings and, of course, marching (in my case I was a steward on the march) in order to help try and save Lewisham Hospital. I didn’t spot John there…

  4. Disappointing that the Cabinet Member for Public Health decided not to answer Spencer Drury’s question about what implications the ruling on Lewisham A&E will have on the A&E at QE in Woolwich. I think residents in Greenwich have a right to know and surely the Council Leadership must have looked into this as part of their response the consultation.

  5. Great news for Lewisham and Greenwich for the time being!

    Meanwhile the government are rushing to push through the TTIP EU/US trade agreement that will give transnational corporations the right to sue in international courts for loss of profits shoud any future government attempt to repeal the competition ‘reforms’ of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. I wonder what Greenwich Labour Councillors or Andy Burnham will have to say about this.

  6. Nikki, why is it wrong for Greenwich Labour candidates to celebrate the Lewisham victory when at least some of those celebrating, both sitting councillors and new candidates donated their own money to the Save Lewisham A&E appeal and turned up to the marches? Do we not count as “any south-east Londoner that’s given time or money to help the campaign”?

  7. If Greenwich Labour cares so much Aidan, why didn’t its councillors – the ones you members chose – move a motion when Lewisham Hospital was under threat?

    (Incidentally, I can vouch for the presence of Aidan and others on the marches.)

  8. Aidan – so that you and others understand which direction this criticism is coming from, let me offer a little bit of background. I consider myself one of life’s natural Labour voters but often have misgivings about the local party and feel that the party nationally is still moving away from me in a rightwards direction. I am not a member of the party. I am lucky enough to know a couple of Greenwich Labour Councillors and people in the local party, and I know from experience that they are personally committed to the survival of the NHS and what’s more to having health provision that we can be proud of.

    I’m glad to hear that you have given time and effort to the campaign against the Lewisham downgrade along with all of us other South East Londoners. But I don’t have an argument against you as a South East Londoner, I have an argument against you as a Greenwich Labour member.

    What I would have liked to see – backed by research and projections – is a very quick response to say that the proposals put forward by the TSA would have been disastrous not just for Lewisham but also for Greenwich. Given that our A&E already runs partly out of a portakabin to deal with overflow, this should not have been a difficult argument to make. I would have liked this response to come from the council, but if the council would not make that response – and it wouldn’t – I would have expected the local party to make their position clear.

    Last year I attended an ‘I love the NHS’ event at Charlton House where Diane Abbott was the guest speaker. The other attendees were by and large Greenwich Labour members. The discussion that evening was impassioned if sometimes partisan. I would never have guessed as I walked away from the meeting with my new ‘I love the NHS’ badge that the people that were prepared to shout the odds about the survival of the NHS under the evil Tories and betraying Lib Dems would not be prepared later as a group to say ‘I think closing this A&E is a really bad idea if only because it will mean that my A&E doesn’t work any more.’ As I’ve said above (and a quote from Chris Roberts on another of Darryl’s posts seems to confirm) the idea must have been to ensure first that QE was safe. Well, that’s fine, but it seems to me very shortsighted politics – whether the one A&E in SE London is here or in Lewisham, someone’s going to have to travel and residents of both boroughs will suffer.

    (Darren – actually I’ve had really good care at QE, though not that many run-ins with A&E)

  9. I have no idea, ask a councillor. I was responding to the criticism that candidates are not allowed to celebrate a victory they helped to come about.

  10. Greenwich Council completely accepted or at any rate, did not oppose the document published by the NHS London when it came to amalgamating Queen Marys, Sidcup, which is owned by the NHS, and Princess Royal University Hospital (PRUH) in Bromley and Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Woolwich which are PFI buildings. The Council sat on their hands either unsure, confused, or blind to what was going on. The merger of these 3 hospitals was always going to be a disaster. Hospitals cant control who come in the door at A&E and each patient costs money – if you have an additional debt to pay to a PFI contract it is inevitable it’s likely to get into difficulty and will fail financially. It has.

    I have been a patient for surgery twice at QEH and my experience was very good but some of the hospitals in the South London Healthcare Trust are being demonised, not because they don’t provide great care but because they have PFI round their necks. QEH is a superb cancer centre and has one of the lowest death rates and hospital infection rates in the country – the clinicians there are doing something right. I feel sorry for the staff at all these Hospitals. I know that others may not have had great experiences – but I can only speak as I find because of course, things can go wrong in any Hospital.

    Then we get to the vinegar stroke! Why would Lewisham University Healthcare Trust want to take on the PFI liability of QEH? They think they have saved their maternity and A&E but they are sleepwalking into inheriting a PFI debt which in my view will create bigger problems in the future. I predict the new Trust will be in financial difficulties within 2 years…… The victory for Lewisham is brilliant but are they looking forward? I think not. I should just point out Iam not a worker either in the NHS or allied to it.

  11. Interesting to see the usual suspects ranting on about Greenwich Council again. Not very objective comments as it happens. Both Chris Smith and Thomas (jump on any bandwagon) Turrell have the political axe to grind ,but hey,that’s life. I am firmly of the view that the work done during the consultation period and subsequently following publication the Council has acted totally in the best interests of our residents. For the record I was on the March and worked with political colleagues across South London over many months and will continue to do so. The fight to save the Health Service from destruction by the Tory/Lim Dem Coslition is not over.

  12. John, I hope – given I rarely comment here – that you don’t see me as one of the usual suspects. A recent tactic by someone else here was to challenge those criticising to come up with a list of things that are good about Greenwich Council. Another time in another venue I’ll give you that list, if you like.

    But ‘being on the march’ is not the point. I was on the march. My husband was on the march. Several friends also were. But the whole reason that you’d want to build a political career as I see it is so that you can directly affect outcomes without needing to demonstrate. You have the ability either as a council member (particularly as the councillor with the health portfolio) or as a party member to make a direct contribution to the debate on behalf of all of us.

    I agree that the fight is not over – I’d be happier if I understood what if anything had been done to fight till now.

  13. Mr Fahy, I would not consider myself a usual suspect either….. I watch this blog, am a resident of Charlton but have to tell you I am getting a bit peed off by the lack of action by Greenwich Council. I kind of agree with Nikki, I was on the Lewisham march too because I thought that downgrading aspects of Lewisham Hospital was bad idea… would not save our local NHS and will just create more debt. But what did you and your colleagues do to oppose the creation of the South London Healthcare Trust? which by any analysis was doomed to fail…… I will tell you what they did as I wrote to one of your colleagues on the subject and got an anodyne reply, which went along the lines the Secretary of State has decided…. and that was it! …. seemed like it was ‘cut and paste’ You of course are a Councillor in the RB of Greenwich – where was your opposition to the notion of setting up the South London Healthcare Trust in the first place and further, where is your opposition to it being dismantled? I don’t recall reading your views anywhere….. perhaps you should have been defending our own boroughs’ healthcare rather than another – even if the Lewisham case is laudable.

    If you can post me to articles you have written opposing the creation of the SLHT or defending the excellent care provided at QEH, which will be subsumed and create debt which will aggravate the problem for us in SE London, please point me to it and I will shut up!

  14. A lot of this really makes me despair. I’d like to think that I’m not one of those “usual suspects ranting on about Greenwich Council again” as I firmly believe plural politics and genuine, open debate is the way forward. I fully appreciate that others may not see me that way.

    Before I can get national politics out of the way I feel there are a number of observations to be made:-

    1) No political party is entirely blameless in any discussions about local health services. The PFI deals which ultimately caused the implosion of SLHT were initially agreed by the Major government and extended under Blair. The Lib Dems have been partially responsible as partners in a coalition government. Apologies to the Greens, UKIP and others – I can’t recall any statements or actions on these matters.

    2) Current changes to the national NHS are an extension to the market-led reforms started by the Tories in the 90s and rapidly expanded by the Blairites in the last decade. Again, all three major parties have had a hand in this somewhere. Any all-encompassing “I Love the NHS”, “Save the NHS” or similar campaign is duplicitous at best.

    3) The changes to the running of the national NHS and the insolvency of the local trust should possibly be looked at as connected, but separate, issues. (Although both are occurring at the same time and what happens with one may affect the outcome of the other)

    With that out of the way it may be possible to have some constructive, local debate.

    Firstly, many people from all parties (and none) were involved in the campaign to save Lewisham A&E and prevent QEH from becoming even more overcrowded than it already is. In order of posting, Chris Smith, Aidan Smith and John Fahy are all correct to point out that they were involved in the campaign in different ways. I can’t speak for Thomas Turrell, but I have no doubt he was too. The concern about the provision, availability and stresses on local healthcare services transcends party boundaries.

    Secondly, while many in Lewisham were working with a common sense of purpose there has been abject lack of the same happening here, at least publicly. As Darryl points out in his post above, no motion concerning SLHT was passed in Greenwich between the time of the insolvency and last night.

    However, I feel I need to point out that seven of the Tories put forward a motion on February 29th 2012 that highlighted the funds that were then being made available to help trusts under serious, structural financial pressure from bad PFI deals:-

    “Council notes that the Coalition Government has announced that extra grants will be available to NHS hospital trusts which face serious structural financial issues resulting from historic PFI deals.

    Council further notes that according to a Department for Health announcement the South London Healthcare Trust was one of seven trusts being considered to receive extra funds.

    Council is aware that the PFI deal signed in 1998 has left the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (which is part of the South London Healthcare Trust) in serious financial difficulties and a repayment of £67m is expected this year as part of the contract.

    Hence Council calls upon the Executive and relevant scrutiny panel to support the South London Healthcare Trust in applying for the extra grants to ensure that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and associated trust receive sufficient funds to prevent unnecessary job losses and ward closures at the hospital.”

    The third paragraph was subsequently amended by Peter Kotz, and agreed by Spencer Drury, to read:-

    “That it be noted that the Finance Report for South London Healthcare Trust indicated a projected deficit for the financial year end in March 2012 of £69.8 million. Of this deficit, it is estimated in the Trust’s Financial Strategy that £21.5 million is attributable to PFI repayments across three hospitals, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Princess Royal University Hospital and Queen Mary’s with approximately £10 million per annum directly attributable to Queen Elizabeth Hospital.”

    What happened to these extra funds? Nothing was ever heard about them again locally. Did any action occur after the passing of the motion?

    As a frequent observer and occasional participant at local council meetings I found the actions last night distinctly below par. The Tories were making a fairly neutral point about ways to help local services in the future and I was rather shocked by the extremely partisan amendment, bearing no relation to the original motion, which was proposed and accepted in its place.

    Why is it so wrong to offer perfectly reasonable solutions to a local crisis? What is RBG proposing to do with the funds that Spencer Drury identified? If they are already earmarked, please tell us what for.

    John, you’re better than this. Weren’t you asking the other day why satisfaction with local politics was at an all-time low? I hope you haven’t provided your own answer.

  15. Finally, in answer to what happens next – the PFI deals associated with QEH and the SLHT have to be cancelled.

    Can’t be done you say? Johnson managed it with the TfL ones.

  16. Stewart: Regarding statements from the Green Party, Darren Johnson used his roles as both a Lewisham Borough Councillor and GLA member to lay out the Green Party’s opposition to any loss of services at Lewisham Hospital.
    Green Party members have also involved in the campaign, which, despite this current battle being won, is not the end of this war against NHS services locally or nationally.
    All 3 main political parties have to take responsibility for the continued assault and run-down of the NHS. It started with Barbara Castle, then was sped up during my time as a Pupil Nurse and afterwards by the Thatcher regime and has gone on from there.
    It will take something for this trend to be reversed I feel.
    Lets hope this victory can be the start of that something remarkable.

  17. Sorry Trevor. You’re perfectly correct about Darren Johnson. I’ve had a very Greenwich-centric hat on over the last few days and I don’t know why I’m posting this late at night!

  18. It is possible that those slagging off the Council for its efforts in respect of the the Heath debate have got it wrong. The suspects I refer to are those with a political axe to grind . Of course there are those who remain passionate about the NHS and rightly so. Simply listening to one debate hardly touches the surface in respect of the work being done across many levels. None attending the last Health Scrutiny Panel or the Clinical Commissioning Public Meetings would know only too well. The proposed merger of Lewisham and Queen Elizabeth will proceed,that in itself will be a challenge and the demand for extended community services will grow. Happy to meet up with those who remain concerned about our actions to give an update on progress.

  19. John

    I don’t have a party political axe to grind. I’m not a member or supporter of any political party.

    But it is patently clear from the FACTS – which have been highlighted here and elsewhere over the past eight months – that Greenwich Council failed spectacularly to express its opposition to the downgrading of Lewisham Hospital’s A&E and maternity services.

    Greenwich Council also failed to assess properly the impact that the downgrading of Lewisham would have on Greenwich residents.

    It is also obvious that your amendment to the motion on Lewisham was a crude attempt to bandwagon on the Save Lewisham Hospital campaigners’ high court victory – after you had failed to express a view when it actually mattered.

    While I am bitterly opposed to the coalition government’s health reform measures, I think that it was pitiful of you to twist the motion into a petty swipe at the government, which does nothing to address the health provision challenges we face locally.

    Finally, I find it offensive, confrontational and bullying of you to refer to commenters here as “the usual suspects” and their views as “ranting” when they have been nothing of the sort.

  20. I fail to understand why you believe that we have failed spectacularly to express opposition to the Lewisham proposals. Confidential discussions take place on a whole range of issues and this was no exception. Apologies if my comments were over the top,based on my frustration to get a rational point cross. In reality those commenting on this blog are not prepared to believe anything that is said.

  21. Why did Greenwich Labour councillors not propose a motion opposing the Lewisham closure when it was under threat, John? Why was it saved until a moment when you could spite the Tories?

    Why was Greenwich’s opposition to the Lewisham closure not press-released? Why did you not feature it in Greenwich Time?

    That is a failure, and to ask us to trust your “confidential” discussions will serve us alright quite neatly sums up the big problem with the way the council is run and how it views those who pay for it.

  22. Come on John lets be grown up and have a serious debate. What are the implications of the decision in the High Court on the A&E in Woolwich?

  23. I have no particular political axe to grind on health, John. As a user of local services I’m just trying to understand the implications of the events of the last 18 months or so. Having seen QEH A&E first-hand a number of times in the summer of 2011 I know the presssures they were under even then.

    With Wednesday’s judgement the fight to shape our local health services for the future has only just begun. On an issue as critical as this it is important that everybody comes together locally to find a solution, from all parties and none. I had hoped some of my comments earlier would take some of the heat out of the debate about national politics, and the clash of local personalities, and enable us to move on to that open, rational debate that is sorely needed,

    I’m still interested in the workability of the proposal in the original motion. It appeared to be a sensible idea to address a pressing local issue.

    Have you looked at the merits or feasibility of a Minor Injuries Centre to take the pressure off QEH?

    It may also have been missed in the furore, but was there an answer to the question about the unspent funds? Have these now been allocated elsewhere?

  24. It seems quite odd for people to talk about local solutions within a national health service. The NHS is no longer fit for purpose, why dont we break it up and ensure that health provision meets local demand? In this situation if the local hospital goes bust so local tax payers either pony up to save it or lose it? As an aside hospitals will always be operating at the limits of their capacity as the service the provide is ‘free’.

  25. Thomas: I think in our quest for the truth and the best results for local citizens we should be fair: it would be good to hear from the council what the next steps are to ensure health care provision is adequate for Greenwich residents but I wouldn’t be surprised if neither John not anyone else in the council can tell you what the implications are immediately because details of the Government’s or TSA’s approach after the judicial review haven’t been released yet.

    Richard: this blog deals with local issues so it is a little disingenuous to suggest that we’re all failing to take the opportunity to ponder more widely the future of the NHS. I’m sure you’ll be able to find many other venues to have the broader discussion, perhaps or something like that. You should perhaps be equipped with the knowledge that a price of 0 does not create unlimited demand – either in microeconomics or in common sense. Many things are free – compassion might be one of them – but that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to have them.

  26. Nikki, I am not sure why proposing that health provision should be controlled by the people who actually use the service whilst still being free (although this will not last as health care provision in its current guise will become totally unaffordable in the near future) should be heartless. Indeed such issues should be a topic of debate for local blogs. What we are discussing here is why a set of elected officials did not put forward a motion which would have had 0 bearing on the actual decision. All we are left with at the local level is pointless gesture politics. And a price of 0 does create unlimited demand in any econ102 class.

  27. Richard – some public health functions within the NHS *have*, rightly or wrongly, been devolved to a local level since April this year. That is one of the reasons we are trying to have this debate.

    I tried to address this earlier. As Nikki says, there are other venues for having discussions about the national situation. This is one of the few places we can attempt to have some rational discussion about the current, local picture.

  28. Stewart, you are a selected Lib Dem candidate in Shooters Hill ward. Both you and Franklin “I am so fed up with the local Labour Party cabal that I would also consider standing as an independent in Peninsula ward” Steves do have political axes to grind and will be seen to be grinding them on any political issue. That doesn’t invalidate your views, but they are political.

    The Conservative motion is also being accepted as an apolitical, practical solution to local issues. I see it as a piece of political position by the Greenwich Conservatives and it should be treated as such. They know they will be heavily criticised for both the mess the government are making of the NHS, both locally and nationally (I doubt the debacle over the 111 calls is helping the queues at the QE). I see the motions as a way of attempting to defend themselves locally as trying to help the situation, but not being allowed to. As it has converted the issue of Government’s mismanagement and cutting of the NHS to an attack on the Labour Party, it must be clever stuff.

  29. Stewart I am aware of this but until local areas can actually fund their own health provision these issues will reoccur. This particular issue will only be solved with either more money from the national pot or a reduction in other serives provided in the local area. (Assuming that the PFI contract cannot be voided which I doubt). My point is that trying to have a rational debate about local issues within our centralised system is pointless. Maybe the local council could use their time to summon the NHS employee who signed off on the PFI contract and try and ensure that lessons are learned.

  30. Richard – I fear you may be right about the pointlessness, but ultimately, as an optimist, I think there may still be things we can do within the current framework.

    Aidan – I appreciate that as we are both candidates for 2014 we can be seen as having “axes to grind”. There are indeed issues with the Conservative motion being partly a poltical manoeuvre, but underneath it all there are some pertinent questions. I cannot see where I have attacked the Labour Party – I’ve pointed out the failings of all concerned and even defended you personally. Again, maybe I am overly optimistic, but I feel that we should not have to emulate the rabble at Westminster within local politics.

    As I see it there is one important and historic issue which to the best of my knowledge has never been answered: When discussions were taking place, and a resolution passed to chase, funds to bail out the local PFI deals – did these funds exist, were they actively sought, and did they ever materialise?

    Moving on to the fall out from the Lewisham court case, ther ongoing merger of the trusts and potential future actions:-

    * Has anybody looked at the merits or feasibility of a Minor Injuries Centre to take the pressure off QEH? Is it even achievable within the current framework?
    * Are there unused funds within the local public health budget and could they be used in this way?
    * If they do exist or cannot be used in this way, what are we going to use them for?
    * What are the implications for QEH from the current judgement. Indeed, what are the implications if Hunt successfully appeals the ruling?

  31. I’m sorry Aidan, but “being fed up with the local Labour cabal” isn’t the same thing as “having a political axe to grind”.

    Unless – like many of your colleagues in Greenwich Labour – you equate my desire for the Council to be accountable and transparent with “political axe-grinding”?

  32. Stewart, sorry if you thought I was accusing you of attacking the Labour Party, I was referring to the blog post. You have made some very valuable and balanced contributions.

    Franklin, I noticed you ignored the part of my quote that mentions you are considering standing as an independent councillor, which equips you with an axe and a whetstone. There’s nothing wrong with having an axe to grind.

  33. Aidan, as I think I’ve made abundantly clear over many years, including in my last comment, I DO have an axe to grind: I want Greenwich Council to be accountable and transparent (and competent), and it is not.

    That does not, however, mean that I have a “political” axe to grind.

  34. I am sorry to arrive a bit late to this debate, but could I start by thanking Darryl for the most comprehensive write up of the Council meeting anywhere in the local media.

    I just wanted to respond to the comment by Aidan Smith about the Conservative motion being “a piece of political position by the Greenwich Conservatives and it should be treated as such”. I am afraid that I really object to this sort of comment being used to close down the debate on a serious issue.

    To be clear we have suggested that Greenwich Council could look to create a minor injuries unit (or urgent care centre) to help alleviate the pressure on the A&E at Queen Elizabeth. Frankly the overcrowding at A&E seems to me to be felt by almost everyone I speak to, so this was an attempt to suggest how the Council might use the £3m of extra funding it has been given by the Coalition Government to improve the care for all Greenwich residents.

    By dismissing it as political positioning, Mr Smith seems to think he does not need to address whether it is a good idea or not. This was much the same tactic the Labour Party used at the Council meeting.

    In my opinion, Greenwich Labour candidates and Councillors need to explain why they do not support the idea and why other items of expenditure might be more important than this one. Simply dismissing it means that this does become political, when in fact it might be a good idea which all parties in the borough might agree on.

  35. I am trying to restrain myself,having read the comments by Spencer Drury. There is and never was any intention to close th Health debate down,far from it. The reason we are,where we are is that Andrew Landsley, the Conservative Health Secretary has decided to significantly reduce Health provision cross London. Spencer ,true or false. The consequences of this action was to reduce provision in Lewisham. Spencer,true or false. The Council is not responsible for acute health provision.

    It is true the Council got an increase in its Public Health funding. An Indepenent Adjudicator agreed that the funding for Greenwich was too low. In the current financial year the Borough will receive £74 per head of population. Kensington&Chelsea will receive £124 per head of population. The money is ring fenced for Public Health activity. To complete the lesson responsibility for commissioning acute services rest with the Clinical Commissioning Group.

    I appreciate why Spencer and his colleagues want to divert attention away from the actions of his Government that ave created this impasse. Of course ably supported by the Liberal Democrats. The task of my colleagues and myself is to work with providers to secure the best service possible under extreme financial difficulties.

    I am extremely happy to have a public debate with Spencer and who ever else wants to join in to ensure that the general public are no longer hoodwinked by Spencer and his colleagues. I look forward to an early response.

  36. @ Spencer D and J Fahy, I am growing tired of Greenwich Councillors wanting to fight it out on this blog – the; he said – she said – I said – tone has become a bit boring. You have your council meetings to argue your points. What I think readers of this blog are interested in, is not so much the Lewisham High Court victory, great for them as it was but rather, we are more interested in what you are going to do about the parlous state of QEH in Woolwich.

    Its parlous state has nothing to do with quality of care, in fact, the CQC reported in July 2013 that QEH met all of the 5 standards it inspects. Lewisham was inspected in April 2013 and met only 3 of the 5 standards. QEH’s present position has nothing to do with the quality of care but more to do with the millions of pounds saddled around its neck in paying for a PFI contract. Labour pretty much created the PFI monster and the Conservatives seem happy with it, as it probably gives their business friends more money to donate to party funds.

    So rather than blether on about the past, I would rather you concentrate on the future. Lewisham will, if the merger of QEH and Lewisham goes ahead find itself in financial trouble. That will affect people in this borough ultimately. People are already being affected; many high quality staff who live in the borough will be made redundant because of this merger and healthcare, down the track, will be compromised, as Lewisham will end up a failing Trust because of the QEH PFI contract…… its so obvious!

    Rather than verbally bashing each other, perhaps you could get your heads together for once, please, and find a solution that will retain QEH as an independent Healthcare Trust in our area. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not a member of any political party, I do not work in the NHS, intimate with anyone who does, nor any allied trade. I can see another disaster along the track. Politics should be about looking forward whilst taking account of the past – but not dwelling in it.

    So come on gentlemen – step up to the plate and work together to ensure we retain a Hospital with 5 green ticks in the boxes rather than merge with one with only 3.

  37. John Fahy, I commented on Spencer’s comments which in many ways apply to you both. Hell yes, I would like to come to a debate on the issue given that you have offered one. I have no axe to grind other than ensuring we have high quality healthcare for the people in this borough.

  38. John, would this debate be on local healthcare issues? One on national issues between the PFI Party and the Jeremy Hunt Party would be as much use locally as a chocolate fireguard, frankly.

    (Thanks to both you and Spencer for commenting, by the way.)

  39. I think its okay for councillors to debate on this blog. It helps us non-party members understand where people are coming from.

    Also, sod the PFI. Withdraw from it, just as the private firms do when they don’t make enough money (NHS Direct being the latest example).

  40. Very good point Chris….. but I never knoiw absolutely where they are coming from but if they want to have a party and explain Im happy go as long as the wine is decent 🙂

  41. Where to start?

    Chris – Thank you for seconding my comments above about the PFI. It is perfectly acceptable for private firms to withdraw from PFI deals and it should be just as acceptable for governments to withdraw from them in exceptional circumstances. Such risks are already factored-in to the exorbitant amounts made by banks involved in funding such deals and there is already a precedent – Johnson and TfL.

    Amanda – Thank you too for echoing my comments about concentrating on the real, local issues, the future and what happens next. For the record, and as some readers of this blog will know, I am a Liberal Democrat candidate for next year. I am not elected, receive no pay for this position and cannot speak in any of these debates at the Town Hall, but I am a concerned, local user of NHS services.

    Cllr Drury – It is great to see you enter the debate and reply to this article. As an observer to both the members’ questions and the “debate” on the motion on Monday it was apparent that you did try to get Cllr Fahy to answer many questions, only to be met with no response to the former and an irrelevant amendment to the latter. As a frequent observer to these meetings this is the first time I have ever seen a cabinet member refuse to answer a question from an opposition member in such a way. All became clear later with the surprise amendment.

    Cllr Fahy – Good to see you return with a partial answer to one of my questions. As I understand it, local council officers have confirmed that using Public Health funds in the way suggested by the Conservative motion would be legal and acceptable. What is the answer to my other questions?

    In lieu of the lack of debate in the council chamber your offer of a public debate on local health issues is greatly appreciated. Would all parties and members of the public be allowed to attend and take part? May I suggest the ex-Gala Bingo building which has as a planning condition the need to offer RBG-nominated public events and meetings?

    I would humbly suggest that we should limit the debate to matters in which we have the powers to address and in where we have some sway locally. The future of A&E at QEH given the recent ruling and locally funding NHS services? Perhaps the implications of traffic, congestions and river crossings on public health?

    Darryl could chair – he’s independent and has a lot to say about all local parties and issues, both good and bad.

  42. I just realised I should note that I have had stays in QEH. Gall Bladder removal, oesophogitits ,alcohol/Class A related problems and. heart woes. Always had excellent treatment. Top marks to the staff.

    After I finally had a breakdown the mental heath ‘treatment’ I undertook was a disgrace. Oxleas desperately needs turning round. I escaped (they called it a voluntary discharge which I suppose is strictly correct!!) and was madder than when I went. I luckily had family and friends to call the Feds off and found a safe place.

    I wonder how former comrades in the Shrewsbury Ward are? I know two have killed themselves.

  43. Ouch. Chris, I’m really sorry to hear about your experiences, and thank you for your frankness.

    But isn’t Oxleas, a separate NHS Trust from the ill-fated South London Healthcare Trust, which is what’s under discussion here?

    (Mental health in Lewisham, and QEH is due to be taken by Lewisham Hospital’s trust, is run by the South London and Maudsley trust, which is just a hint as to how confusing NHS arrangements have been made by successive governments.)

  44. Blimey. Chris, sorry to hear this.

    I have similar feelings about the state of mental health and social care after seeing the way a very close relative was treated throughout the system.

    We shouldn’t have to qualify our reasons for posting here. We’re all residents and should have an equal voice regardless of those who want to shut down discussion.

  45. Brilliant John, I think a public debate is an excellent idea, thanks for suggesting it. I am sure that many of the ‘usual suspects’ on this blog (i.e. local people interested in the issues) will be happy to get involved and help make it happen.

  46. In reply to fahy 3.50 4th August

    Greenwich is getting less public health money per head than 11 London Boroughs and more than 20. All areas have a real terms increase this year compared to 2012-13. The Government’s formula seems to combine assessment of need with the amount previously spent by the NHS, thus protecting former big spenders. The 2014-15 allocation seems to give less weight to this element.

    Whether this a fair way of doing it is debatable but it’s hardly a political motivated attack on Greenwich which is getting 15% more money over two years.

  47. Thanks for those figures, Paul.

    I have no idea how the funding formula is calculated, however the obvious thing it does show is that we’re getting more per head (£71) this year than our nearest Conservative neighbours in Bromley (£40) and Bexley (£29). The funding is also marginally higher than Labour controlled Lewisham (£68).

    I’m not sure that using the outlier of Kensington & Chelsea is such a good comparison. I can’t see any political bias in the figures for neighbouring areas. If anything, it shows the opposite.

  48. Amanda and Stewart, I assume a PFI contract will only become invalid for the state if the other party becomes demonstrably unable to carry out its side of the contract. I believe this was the case with the tube contract cancelled by the Mayor. It is interesting that people assume the bankers are responsible for this as opposed to the muppet who signed the contract for the NHS. Its not as if the NHS doesnt pay its management enough to be able to to work these things out!

  49. Richard – TfL has also bought out relatively uncontentious PFI deals on the Docklands Light Railway, and bought the company operating the Croydon Tramlink PFI. It can be done…

  50. Richard – cancelling was probably too harsh a word, however any other institution which failed under such massive debts and contracts would be able to get out of them as part of an insolvency process. As Darryl says, it has been done before. Yes, I consider the banks and bankers having such huge profit margins on these deals as culpable as those who signed them.

  51. Re Oxleas, thanks I genuinely did not know that. I thought it was just a sub-section of the South London Healthcare Trust.

    Re my mental health, all okay now — although I allow people to beg to differ!

    I just wanted to point out the difference in care from what I mistakenly assumed was from the same people!

  52. I believe Oxleas was formed out of the old Bexley Hospital – it still has a centre out there. I’m glad to hear your health’s better, Chris.

  53. John Fahy and his entourage have, as usual, gone quiet on the substantive issues.

    Will you back the public debate that you suggested on the terms proposed, John?

    And in the meantime will you respond to the issues and proposals raised here?

  54. The idea of using money for public health activity (which isn’t new money btw, it’s just been shifted from the NHS) to prop up secondary care services is absolutely insane. We need to be investing in prevention not using public health money in dealing with the aftermath of not doing that…

    I think everyone knows my views on Greenwich council’s contribution to the Lewisham Hospital campaign so I’ll say nothing about that.

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