I probably should have gone to last Tuesday’s Communities Scrutiny meeting if
only to see new Chairman Councillor Alan Downing in action but you cannot be in
two places at once. The fact that it dragged on for three hours made me a little
bit glad I was unable to be present. Thank goodness for webcasting.
Probably the most newsworthy subject was health, a subject on which Councillor Downing has done his fair share of plain speaking in the past. Would he curb his usual inclinations when in the Chair?
Changes are due for Erith Hospital and Richard Diment, another Councillor who knows his way around health issues, said he was “somewhat baffled” by them. He had been told nine months earlier following a discussion with a previous CCG Managing Director that there was “an urgent crisis to be addressed and here we are eight or nine months on and I haven’t heard what is to be done to improve the patient experience”.
“There are anecdotal stories of patients attending mid-morning and finding the doors closed.” Bexley Health Watch has reported similarly. “What has been done since those discussions nearly a year ago to improve those conditions?”
The answer was “reviews and consultations” and the space available will be better utilised in future and refurbished. It was acknowledged that there have been temporary closures.
Chairman Alan Downing said that “things seem to drag on and on and are not fit for purpose and it has not been fit for purpose for many many years. At the last meeting in November we were told exactly the same things. If I was living in the North of the borough I would be wondering what is going on. We will have 4,000 new residents there within the next couple of years and we can’t offer them any Health Centre at all. It really is very very bad”.
“There has been ample time for the Trust to get organised and sort something out and you talk about making more space but we are talking about one room and Oxleas haven’t even put in a tender for the decorating. We can’t have this.”
“Discussions about the new stroke unit went on for four years! I want action taken very very soon and quicker than you are offering. No one seems to know what is going on. The staff are not consulted, the morale is actually dreadful, and everything is one big mish mash.”
“All we are getting is a nice new waiting room. We have to do better than this.”
Councillor Caroline Newton agreed “and was a little disappointed”.
Councillor Dave Putson, who lives in the North of the borough, was unable to get an appointment with his own GP because of “staffing issues” and they referred him to the Erith Urgent Care Centre. “It was embarrassing. It was overcrowded and I could hear what was going on in the consulting room. It was not fit for purpose.
Councillor Putson was told that “it would require a full rebuild to meet that [problem]”. He went on to say “we used to have a 24/7 A&E Department and now we have Erith eight until eight and the long term plan is 31,000 new residents. We need a hospital.”
Councillor Alex Sawyer took a similar view and criticised the lack of communication. “We are hearing about changes that might be coming but it does diddly squat for now. Residents are being short changed.”
The discussion went on in similar vein for another hour. Councillor Downing said that “I will leave here tonight not happy and not convinced. I would hope that the Health Sub-Group will really really make it very unpleasant for the Trust to get something done. It is really annoying that we represent residents and we can’t offer them anything. Nobody knows”.