I was not alone in thinking that a Scrutiny meeting devoted only to health matters might prove to be heavy going,
there were no members of the public present at last night’s meeting.
The Agenda reveals that the Urgent Care Centre (UCC) in Erith will be kept open beyond the initially proposed closure date and reprieved until 31st March 2020. It was reported at the meeting that the Centre is frequently used because GP appointments are very difficult to get.
Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) thought that there would not be be room at the Erith Health Centre to run all services currently provided by the Urgent Care Centre but was told they would not all be moved so accommodation would not be a problem. She was also told that the closure of a GP practice in Erith would not make things worse despite a claim made at an earlier meeting that Bexley has among the poorest doctor patient ratios in the country.
Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James) said that it was widely agreed that Erith Hospital was no longer fit for purpose and services “would soon be swamped”. He was impatient for action to be taken quickly.
Councillor James Hunt (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) said that in the recent past the Clinical Commissioning Group had promised no loss of services and no reduction of opening times and it was “an absolute commitment” but all of those things are happening and the UCC is being broken up. “The X-Ray unit seems to be disappearing.”
He was also concerned that consulting with a Focus Group peaking at 14 members was not a lot from a population of a quarter of a million.
Councillor Hunt was told by the CCG representative (Managing Director Theresa Osborne) that to have X-Ray facilities at Queen Mary’s, Sidcup was good enough. “There was no expectation” of renewing the Erith facility although it will continue for the immediate future.
Both Councillors Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Crooklog) and Alan Downing said that the Erith X-Ray Department was “not fit for purpose” and “hadn’t been for years”. Councillor Camsey said that “we are losing sight of the fact that hospitals are for patients who might be in pain or very ill and we are not making their needs a priority”.
Addressing Ms. Osborne she said “I am not convinced by anything you have said so far”.
Councillor Downing was concerned about “the dwindling” number of GPs in Bexley. He was prescribed some fine words about recruitment. Councillor James Hunt was concerned that some Bexley GP practices were registered with Greenwich CCG and Bexley residents were not being protected by Bexley policies on obesity etc. He was given a repeat prescription of fine words.
Yesterday’s announcement indicating that Crossrail services may be two years away casts a black cloud over Bexley’s Growth Strategy but if it ever comes to pass estimates are that the borough will need 50 more doctors, 20 more dentists and additional pharmacists and opticians.
One might think a formal survey on obesity unnecessary given what may be observed out on the streets and the formal survey inevitably confirmed the popular view. In Bexley three out of ten primary school children are over-weight rising to four by Year 6 and six out of ten are obese by adulthood. The extreme north and extreme south of the borough tip the scales more than the centre.
This brief report is based on the Agenda and the webcast.