Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

By Cllr Maya de Souza

At Camden’s Health Scrutiny meeting on July 2,  the Whittington Health’s  Board were back following the heated meeting a few months ago, soon after the hospital’s mass sell-off proposal came to light, which led to a mass protest march.

Dr Greg Battle led the delegation  and this time began with an exposition of the hospital’s clinical strategy. He said other strategies like estates were derived from it.  But the clinical strategy is what the change is really about.

It was very well presented and the clinical plan seemed pretty persuasive, innovative in part. Councillors almost looked relieved. So did Tom Foot, the journalists who broke the news of the sell-off, sitting in the wings.  Though one has to ask whether its really quite so easy to reduce costs in the health service, and if it were why this hasn’t happened before.

So this is the strategy.  It has  three elements:

  • a. enhanced recovery: which means getting people active and fit earlier. No sitting around in expensive beds waiting to get better.
  • b. ambulatory care : co-ordinating care so that patients can be turned round quickly. Dr Battle talked about avoiding “hospitalisation- associated disability” and a radically very different A&E experience which focused on avoiding people being admitted unless monitoring was needed.
  • c. Integrated care: this means links from intensive care to mental health and social care. Dr Battle referred to the  Haringey example, with real time telecoms with all relevant people. He explained that lower level care approaches like encouraging and supporting people to give up smoking can be more effective than other interventions.

There was a lot of other seemingly good stuff. But the best was a sort of assurance that beds wouldn’t be lost if they were needed. They’re expecting not to need quite as many beds but before trying to close any they will consult and will explore all options. The Board assured councillors they would only give up beds if not needed once the new approach had been tried out. They would adopt a flexible approach so beds will be available if needed.

This all looks good but people will want to hear more of this and see it in writing.  Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition Chair, Shirley Franklin, was in attendance and said that the Board did intend to close down beds, and hospital was on red alert with 94% occupancy. Cllr Bryant, ordinarily a very fair chair, refused to let her speak, so we heard no more.

So it looks as of there is no longer a plan to do certain things within certain timeframe. There has been a partial rethink, not a complete rethink in my view.

We will need to keep a close eye on the detail, as the board’s interest in becoming a Trust will drive them to show a healthy financial state and may encourage bigger cuts than manageable.  Also as commissioning becomes more GP-driven I fear the incentives will be against hospitals and for the services that GPs provide, again possibly all excessive pressure to reduce the size of hospitals.

But I think it’s fair for the campaigners including us Greens to claim a partial victory.


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by Natalie Bennett

It’s good to know that the supermarkets and big food companies have promised under the government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal.

But a bit puzzling to see how the displays at the front of the Sainsbury’s near Mornington Crescent Tube on Camden High Street fit in with this new responsibility on unhealthy food and alcohol.

On one side, chocolates, crisps, fizzy drinks, and a bit of wine…

On the other side, lots more wine and beer…

All sold not on the basis of quality or taste, but on how many calories/how much alcohol you get for your pound.

That’s the same Sainsbury’s whose major advertising campaign was banned as misleading.

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11am-1pm, Saturday 10th March
Starting from the People’s Supermarket, 72-78 Lamb’s Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 3LP

To mark Fairtrade Fortnight (27th Feb–11th Mar) there will be a Walk for Fairtrade through the borough of Camden on Saturday 10th March.

The theme of Fairtrade Fortnight is ‘Take a step for Fairtrade’. It can be a simple step, like swapping your tea or coffee at home to Fairtrade, or a bigger step, like hosting your own Fairtrade chocolate tasting party!

There’ll be a yummy Fairtrade Breakfast from 10am at The People’s Supermarket. Then the walk sets off at 11am, arriving at Thorntons Budgens in Belsize Park for a celebratory photo around 1pm.

Organisers ask if you let them know you’re planning to come along: camdenfairtrade@googlemail.com / 07815 771 939

There’s also a Debate:’ Does Fairtrade Really Work’ at 7pm, People’s Supermarket, 72-78 Lambs Conduit St, February 29.

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Call to Defend The NHS

This week sees the third reading of the Health and Social Care Bill which intends to fundamentally change the National Health Service.

The proposals seek to break up the NHS into allowing easier access for private companies to deliver public services. The Green Party believes that the market has no place in the health service and that privatising public services results in worst service at a higher price to the public.

These proposals were not contained in any pre-election manifesto yet represent a fundamental change in the way health care is delivered in this country.

On Wednesday, the day of the vote, there is a London march on Parliament called by Keep Our NHS Public and Unite the union. We think it’s important the defend our health service and would like to encourage everyone who can make this demonstration to turn up and show your support.

Wednesday, 7th September.

Assemble: 6.30pm
St. Thomas’ Hospital
Westminster Bridge Road

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Today at 2.15pm there was a protest not far from St Pancras station to defend NHS mental health services against cuts and privatisation.

Speaking at the demo, Shirley Franklin, chairwoman of the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition, said that in an area of London that had one of the highest suicide rates in the country, mental health cutbacks could do untold harm. During a recession the need for mental health services increased and already people were staying too long on assessment wards because of a lack of spaces.

In the meantime staff are angry at what’s taking place and some are being forced to reapply for their jobs.

Mental health cuts are an attack on the most vulnerable in society and right now we need those services more than ever.

(The CNJ today also reports on threats to the pay and conditions of staff of the Camden and Islington Foundation Trust.)

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I’ve just signed a letter calling on Frank Dobson to sign Early Day Motion 186, which reads:

That this House welcomes the coalition Government’s commitment to give patients control of their health records; considers that any decision to continue to allow uploading of patients’ details to the Summary Care Record (SCR) System is inconsistent with this commitment; and calls on the Government to halt all SCR updates, effective immediately, pending its promised comprehensive review of NHS IT systems.

The letter notes that independent research by UCL on the programme indicates that more than 80% of the patients sent letters warning them about this scheme (and the fact that they have only one chance at the start to opt out) had thrown away the letters unread or had no recollection of receiving them.

Furthermore, the research found that there were many errors in the records and (correctly) doctors were not trusting them:

The researchers found no direct evidence that the care records system led to safer care, though they said that access to the database may reduce some rare medication errors. There was no clear evidence that consultations between doctors and patients are quicker – and in some cases use of summary care records made consultations longer.

Almost 40 million letters have now been sent out across the UK, most without including opt out forms, which you can download from this website.

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The Camden New Journal has been successful in exposing the failures of Camden council’s care for Jennyfer Spencer, who died alone in her inaccessible Gospel Oak flat last month. With our other excellent local paper, the Ham & High, it has also been a leader in the fight against the closure of the Whittington A&E, and been happy to report the other failures of NHS Camden, as exposed by the Keep Our NHS Public Camden, and others.

But what we need to do is look deeper into the failures of our systems of care – both health and social – to recognise that there’s one central problem at the heart of both: the belief that market forces and “productivity” can somehow deliver better, or even more cost-effective, public services.

A report by the parliamentary health select committee that was slipped out on March 30 has now finally got some attention. It concluded that almost 20 years of “commissioning” in the NHS, since health providers and purchasers were split in 1991, have been a “costly failure”.

It described the 2007 “world class commissioning” drive as “no more than a box ticking exercise”, warned that the bureaucratic costs of commissioning had not been adequately counted, and very strongly indicated that what it did not want was more costly management consultants being employed to react to its conclusions.

I visited the Crossroads Women’s Centre in Kentish Town recently and heard from workers there about how a similar approach to social care is causing suffering and misery to those the system should be helping. They told me of a refugee mother, a victim of torture, who when she asked for limited help to get her children to school was effectively threatened with having them taking into care. She was left with little choice but to struggle on with the help of friends. Money saved – highly “productive”.

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