In 2014 the Government changed the rules for voter registration. This means unless you have personally registered to vote yourself, you may not be on the electoral register after December 1 2015. In Walthamstow nearly 5,000 households could be affected.
Over the course of the last year, hundreds of residents have been in touch with me regarding Waltham Forest Council’s ‘Mini Holland’ project. I’ve passed all of the concerns raised onto the Council so that they can directly respond, and I wanted to update residents on what action I have taken in the light of their feedback.
I appreciate that this scheme has aroused strong views, from both those who are delighted with it and those who are implacably opposed to it. Yet aside from letters or emails from those who are members of campaigning organisations seeking either to have this scheme abandoned or extended, it may interest you to know I have received a much larger volume of correspondence from residents about the details of the scheme e.g. particular road closures, routes or the consequences of such changes vs alternative formations as well as repeated concerns about the process of consultation.
Given this, I believe that all those interested in this scheme should welcome the opportunity of the proposed six month review to consider what is working and what is not. I note that even those who have written to me strongly in favour of this scheme have identified ‘snags’ in the current design that need to be addressed, and I believe the majority of those expressing concern about the project support the principles of the scheme, but see practical problems with how it has been set up. It would indeed be unusual for any large innovative public project of this nature to be perfectly implemented and executed, and I would encourage all those with ideas for improvements or information on unintended consequences that need to be addressed to raise these with the Council so that they can be investigated.
As there is now some confusion as to whether this review will take place you will see from my letter to the Council – reproduced below- that I have asked for this to be clarified. Furthermore, it is completely unacceptable that people have been subjected to threats, both on and offline, as well as vandalism and abuse as a result of the strength of feeling that this project has generated and I would urge all concerned to remain calm and constructive.
Please note that as the Walthamstow MP I have no formal authority over this scheme as it is managed by the Council and not parliament. If you have not updated your local councillors who are responsible for this project with your ideas and feedback and would like their contact details to do so please do let me know. As I don’t have any decision making powers on this matter myself I have not either ‘supported’ or ‘opposed’ the project (as I could not affect the outcome either way) but have instead been trying to ensure that all the concerns raised by residents are heard by the Council and that where possible solutions for the issues they raise are provided. So too I have sought to ensure residents are aware of the further elements of this scheme as it is rolled out across Walthamstow- although please note that the Council state only those residents who live on the roads directly affected by these changes are able to participate in the consultation.
With this in mind, please be aware that as well as the changes already introduced to the Walthamstow Village area and Lea Bridge area, there are now also consultation proposals out for response regarding changes to road layouts, closures and route directions for the Hoe Street/ Wood Street area (eg. between Forest Road and Church Hill Road) and also for the Blackhorse Road area (e.g. around Pretoria Ave, Palmerston Road, Forest Road etc) The Council is also beginning to develop plans for the Markhouse/Queens Road area of Walthamstow too. You can find out more about all these plans on the council’s dedicated ‘Mini Holland’ Website which is here:
If you live in either the Hoe St/Wood Street area or the Blackhorse Road area and have not received the formal consultation documents please let my office know and we will share these with you. You can also directly contact the Mini Holland team at the Council via their website. If as a local resident you would like copies of my Mini Holland updates please do email me directly and I will ensure you receive these as and when they are produced.
Text of Letter to Council below:
Dear Martin and Clyde,
I’m writing to you further to our previous conversations regarding the Mini Holland project to put on record my concerns and ask for clarification on a number of issues so that I may update those who have been in touch with me.
I want to start by stating how welcome it is that Waltham Forest is prepared to be innovative in this way and seek to support cycling as well as pedestrians in the Borough. Whilst I respect that this project has been developed by the local authority and as such is being managed by yourselves rather than Parliament, I hope you can appreciate that as the MP for the area in which it is being introduced I have received a substantial amount of correspondence about the project. As such my interest is in ensuring the views of my constituents on this matter are heard in the outcomes of this project and how it is implemented.
As we have discussed previously, I have had concerns for some time about the way in which the scheme was introduced – not its intentions- and the manner in which the initial consultation on this project was conducted. As this project has continued these have not abated. The majority of comments from residents I have had and continue to receive echo this distinction between supporting the general principles of the scheme and being concerned as to how decisions about road closures have been made and whether there may be alternative ways to achieve the outcomes intended.
Despite the project now being nearly a year old, I continue to receive almost daily requests from residents for information about this process and how the pattern of road closures for Walthamstow has been determined – as well as the contrast between this and the plans for other areas of the borough which involve different methods of achieving this objective. Aside from the pressure groups which have now been set up in favour and against the scheme entirely, many not involved in either of these groups persistently contact me to state they feel they have not had adequate information on the project or that their views and proposals have not been considered and so cannot understand the nature of decisions made. So too I have now sadly started to receive reports of abusive behaviour towards residents from others who support the scheme and oppose it, both on and offline.
At the start of this project I was informed that there would be a six month review of the Walthamstow Village scheme after its introduction. This would have provided the chance to see whether changes to the layout of roads were meeting the stated aims and to offer residents the chance to feedback on what was working and what could be amended. I have sought to encourage those concerned about this project as well as supporting it to feed in these ideas to such a review accordingly and to be constructive in approaching this review with their ideas. The existence of this proposal for a review was confirmed to me by Cllr Mark Rusling and in correspondence with local residents – as well as his report that this had been agreed by the Cabinet in February this year.
I note now that Cllr Loakes, in correspondence with some residents on 9 September, did not mention this, and indeed stated that there are no plans to review the scheme at all:
“I’m afraid therefore I see no reason to reconsider the detail of the scheme- some 10 months after it was extensively consulted on, some 9 months after the Council made its decision and just some 4 weeks or so since the closure actually went in.”
As you may appreciate this is causing confusion amongst those who had previously been told that there would be a six month review and I do not wish to give out the wrong information. Therefore, I should be grateful for a formal clarification as to whether this six month review proposal, which had previously been agreed by the Council Cabinet, is going ahead and if not why an explanation as to why this has been scrapped. So too, a number of residents repeatedly ask me about the logic behind road closures vs one way streets or dedicated cycle lanes etc. Having spoken with the Mini Holland team about this and seen the plans for the rest of the borough it would be very helpful to have a guide to these that I can share from the Council directly.
A number of concerns have also been raised with me about the safety of the ‘Copenhagen’ crossings, given that they can appear as a continuation of the pavement, so leaving pedestrians, cyclists and drivers unclear on the status of the road crossing. I would appreciate further background to these ‘Copenhagen’ street entrances, which I could circulate.
I would also welcome details of the emergency services’ responses to these proposals and a copy of their correspondence so I can go back to those who have raised access with me. I am concerned at reports that even patient transport ambulances are not allowed access to those roads that have been closed and I want to check whether this is your understanding. I would also encourage you to meet with the residents of some of our sheltered housing blocks who are now finding that taxi companies are charging them higher rates for their journeys to and from hospital due to the road closures in the village. I do not believe this matter is unresolveable but it is a great concern for those affected. It would be helpful to know if the local authority could broker a facility for making provision for such journeys for this group of residents given that some are now not attending appointments because of this increased cost.
I also remain concerned that you have explicitly chosen to consult only those on the roads directly affected about these changes, as though this was a scheme about their roads alone rather than travel or movement through the area as a whole – a topic that involves a larger group of local residents. Whilst I support the importance of primarily consulting those who live on roads where closures are proposed, I would encourage you to ensure all residents are aware of all the details of the plans proposed for the totality of Walthamstow. Whilst I appreciate there are some who are passionately opposed to the principle behind this scheme, for many more it is the lack of knowledge of the proposals and ‘knock on’ effects that are of concern and for whom understanding these would I’m sure would be welcome.
Any major change project would generate discussion and debate, and I acknowledge that you have sought to improve the way in which the scheme is publicised throughout the borough in recognition of this point. However, as part of showing how much you value building consensus around this project among the majority of residents I would encourage you to consider whether it would be appropriate to conduct this review of the implementation of the first phase of this project in the village area and report back to residents on this, ahead of any introducing further changes elsewhere. To do so would not be to reject the scheme but to learn from what has worked in this location, and what has not, before proceeding further. As such it could send a strong signal that the council wishes to work with local people to get this scheme right as the primary beneficiaries.
I look forward to your response and will be sharing this correspondence with all those who have been in touch so they are aware that I have formally raised these questions,
On Saturday 19th September 2015 Stella spoke to the Coop Party Annual Conference. Here is the transcript of her speech:
I want to start by thanking Gareth Thomas, who was a fantastic candidate for London Mayor and Karin Christiansen and her team for the amazing work they did on the Keep it Coop campaign.
Recently I’ve been taking inspiration from the Dickens classic Hard Times. And in particular Gradgrind. As I like a good fact. And facts are indeed a wonderful thing.
Liechtenstein, the world’s sixth smallest country, is the largest exporter of false teeth. I hadn’t any idea anyone was counting! Facts can tell us a lot about the modern world.
Every generation has faced change, but ours is the first to see in its lifetime such a pace and scale of multiple challenges, leading to a sense of powerlessness.
Traditional politics is struggling to keep up with modernity. In a world where both opportunity and insecurity can be transmitted by the touch of a trader’s button, lack of access to decision making is an inequality in itself.
Talk of ‘giving power away from the centre’ makes it sound as though it is a lump of plasticine held in Whitehall or Westminster to be bequeathed in small pieces to passengers, patients or parents at the benevolence of the Government of the day. Real change will not come from holding more meetings, but how we can all hold more power for ourselves.
That is why it is time to look to the Coop movement for a way forward. Ours is a movement that not only values people power, but applies it. From your spending habits to your social activism or political engagement, cooperativism taps into individual and collective energy for change.
We know the strength that comes not just from changing the law but changing the country. That when it came to beating the legal loan sharks, it was not just a law on the cost of credit that was needed but also credit unions and communities to come together to support those in financial difficulty so that they had an alternative.
So we of all understand when everything seems so uncertain, so fraught, it is people not institutions that should be our starting point- and that to unleash the power they have within them we should not be afraid to pioneer. An answer as old as our very movement itself.
Those men in Rochdale in 1844 wanting to sell honest food at honest prices recognised that in times of uncertainty and unfairness, we our each other’s greatest hope. 171 years later the principles they set out to define how to work together in practice are even more relevant than ever to our shared futures.
Self help, Self responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. They were concerned as much for the benefits to the individual, as to the community, of participation. To protect the vulnerable as well as to make a profit. They were both entrepreneurs and trade unionists. They used their collective might to take the means of production into their own hands- and make markets work on their terms.
But the world we face today is very different to the world the Rochdale pioneers faced. After all I have jumpers older than the internet.
So our task is how to put these values into practice now recognising all – equity, self help and solidarity- matter in unlocking the power to change the world.
When we do we see markets can be mastered by people if we work together. We are now living through a Marxist revolution thanks to the digital age. The means of production and innovation are in the hands of workers. It is not hyperbole to say that the pioneers prefigured it.
The pioneers were both entrepreneurs and trade unionists. They used their collective might to take the means of production into their own hands- and make the markets work on their terms. William Cooper. Sam Ashworth. Their weekly meetings to decide what to sell, held in a pub. Some coop things never really change.
What then can Coop thinking offer to today’s world? Within a few years there will be more self employed than working in the British public sector. Where this Government is stripping away employee rights, and markets are driving insecurity for many, Coops offer an exciting alternative. Freelancer coops for music tuition and careers advice are helping workers regain control over their careers. In the disruptive new sharing economy of Uber, kickstarter and Air b’nb, social enterprises like Room for Tea and Startsomegood offer contrasting models of how all involved in commerce get a better deal.
These principles are not just for small businesses. It is time we tackled legal loan sharking in the public sector, applying the lessons from credit unions to PFI debt management. We want to learn from the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund to give citizens more direct influence over national infrastructure investment. Mutualism can also protect and drive innovation for the greater good. Every citizen member of the Swiss Health Bank has retained direct control over their own valuable personal data to manage how is used for medical research, and not sold for private profit to third parties.
So too, for Britain’s deepening housing crisis, coops can offer a better deal for tenants, home buyers and landlords alike. With 20% of housing in Sweden in cooperative management we have a long way to go – schemes like the Oldham Housing Investment Partnership is showing the way forward.
Cooperators do not defend faceless bureaucracies that ignore people’s needs, whether in the public or private sector. But we know the ‘discipline of the market’ alone is not the answer. Instead it is to give the public the direct ability to shape services for themselves through mutualisation- whether of our railways, our NHS or our utilities. Coop councils are also the real radical future of devolution. I’m proud to have been a coop councillor before I was a coop MP. Whether Plymouth driving down electricity costs, Edinburgh promoting social enterprise or Milton Keynes community asset transfer schemes they are transforming their communities for the better.
Our principles guide too where we see when change isn’t happening quickly enough. We call out those companies whose women are only in their boardrooms as non-execs- there to make up numbers not make decisions. We seek equality and equity for all. With others in Europe and America acting, we know we cannot afford to be left behind by failing to introduce quotas for representation across all sectors. So I want to help the Women’s Cooperative Guild be a powerful force for these values.
These are the distinctive ways of thinking that our movement can offer –why we want to keep it coop. Because we know it is not a choice between the power you hold individually or we exercise politically- its about the combination of both.
That is why mutualism challenges the political status quo most of all- including some on the left. It recasts where the power to make things happen should lie. Not in the hands of the market or of a few in Westminster or even the town hall. But in strengthening the assets, networks and self responsibility of people themselves.
Over the course of this weekend you will hear many more exciting ideas for our future from people like Luke Pollard, Cllr Chris Penberthy and Gareth Thomas. But we must also recognise our movement needs to be more than a pamphlet. I’m proud to be part of the Labour party under Jeremy and Tom. I took part in the deputy leadership contest as a proud co-operator and campaigner as well as Labour MP. But that process taught me that it is a fact whilst some disagree our ideas in the coop movement, many more of those who share our values simply don’t know of us at all.
And that is one fact I definitely want to challenge. Because if we don’t speak up for and fight for our cooperative principles and the benefits of the cutting edge work our colleagues in places like Plymouth, Edinburgh and Milton Keynes are doing, there is no guarantee they will remain in office.
So I’m asking you today to help me in capturing that pioneering spirit for our generation. For those here and now living in this time with this government and these challenges. Not to leave it to someone else, but to be part of working across this country to develop cooperative campaigns that speak to the best of our values, reaching out to those who share our values but not our membership card – and to get those Labour and cooperative candidates re-elected and increased in 2016.
What I am calling the Cooperative Action Network is about working across the country to develop support and training for activists to show that coop difference. Tapping into the creative best of our movement and helping them campaign with their local coop members and supporters, as well as link up with their coop MPs and candidates. Using the latest online and offline techniques it is our ambition to put coop principles, policies and people at the front and centre of progressive politics and practise in this country.
But we can’t do it without you. So I’m asking you to join in. And I’m committing to helping run the training to help get this started. So what will you do to be the pioneer lead in your community- not just in the pub!
In Hard Times Dickens exhorts us
“Do the wise thing and the kind thing too, and make the best of us and not the worst.”
Let that be our maxim for the months and years ahead –social justice cannot be achieved when power is the plasticine plaything of the elite. Power is in our people. The time is now for us to unlock it – I look forward to working with you all to show the coop difference.
There’s so much going on here in Walthamstow- from annual festivals like the E17 Art trail to regular events and one offs. I want to share all that Walthamstow has to offer as well as some of the important local information that I find out as Walthamstow’s MP.
My weekly e-newsletter covers events, important updates, local job opportunities, information about what I have been doing as the MP and where you can find me in the coming week.
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On the fifth of February Stella gave a speech in Parliament as part of a debate on the provision of GP service in which she talked about the difficulties Walthamstow residents face in securing appointments with their local GPs.
The full debate can be read on the Parliament’s official record here and the text of Stella’s speech is below:
Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg) on securing what, for me, is an incredibly important debate. I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Henley (John Howell), because he and I have probably been doing the same thing in going to talk to people in our local community about local health care. I must say that my experience is of a very different health care system—one that is under real pressure and, frankly, very much in danger in my local community.
I wanted to speak in this debate to put my concerns on the record and to ask the Minister and officials at the Department of Health to look at my area, because I am so worried about these issues. As an MP, I see it as my job first and foremost to help the patients of Walthamstow—my neighbours, as well as my family and friends in the area—who can see how our services are falling apart. As their MP, my very real worry is that, as much as I have tried to raise such concerns, all I hear is that those problems are for someone else or for some other organisation to resolve. I want to put on the record some of the issues, and to explain the situation in our local community and how it is having an impact on doctors. By doing so, I hope to convince the Minister to pay special attention to Waltham Forest.
There are 45 GP member practices in Waltham Forest CCG. We have one of the fastest growing populations in the country, but many of the practices are in poorly maintained buildings and are single-handed. They serve a community that has a very high incidence of what we might call lifestyle diseases—diabetes, heart disease, cancer—and GP access is absolutely critical to the outcomes achieved for patients.
Mr George Howarth (Knowsley) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend be a bit more specific? Type 2 diabetes is lifestyle-related, but type 1 is not.
Stella Creasy: I apologise for using shorthand. My right hon. Friend is completely right. I am talking about type 2 diabetes. For example, many people from the south Asian community in my constituency have type 2 diabetes.
We are told that our local GP work force needs to grow by 40% by the end of the next Parliament if it is to serve the community I represent. However, I can already see very real problems with our local community service, and that is bad for the patients and for the rest of the NHS. We know how difficult it is to recruit and retain doctors, but in my part of town, with the high cost of living in London, it will get even harder.
Since 2011, complaints about GP access have rolled into my constituency office. Let me give the Minister some examples. Just the other day, a resident rang me and said:
“Look, the receptionists were perfectly polite. They said call at 9 o’clock or queue up before the surgery opens to get an appointment, but the line was constantly engaged from 9 o’clock. My phone shows I called 28 times between 9 am and 9.30 am, and I could not get through. When I did get through, it was only to be told that there were no more appointments left.”
That is not unusual in my community.
Little wonder that residents in Walthamstow routinely report that it takes two weeks to get an appointment with a doctor. Nationally, we know that one in four people wait a week or more. The problem—this is why I disagree with the hon. Gentleman—is that it is very hard for people to know whether or not they need to see a doctor, especially if they are worried about a child.
Let me give another example of a complaint I received just the other day: “I have had constant problems trying to get a GP appointment for my 13-month-old daughter since she was born. A couple of times, even only last week, I was asked by reception staff at the doctors why I hadn’t gone to A and E.” That is the constant question for residents in my local community when they cannot get through to the surgery—should they wait or should they go to A and E?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that not everybody needs to see a doctor, but another resident told me:
“I fell and cut my hand deeply on glass. I went to the doctors to ask if a nurse could check that there was no glass left in. They told me to go to hospital. The cut was really not that bad. But they said they don’t have any nurses on a Friday and I would have to make an appointment to see a nurse—two weeks as usual, no doubt—so I just left it, as I do with most pains, coughs or small lumps, and hoped it would sort itself out. My hand is healing now and seems to be glass-free. I hope so anyway.”
That is not unusual in my area. At least that elderly lady could have seen a nurse, but many constituents tell me that they do not bother to see a doctor because of how long that takes, and they take the risk of waiting.
Douglas Carswell (Clacton) (UKIP): I am very interested in what the hon. Lady is saying, because it sounds ominously like the situation in Clacton. Indeed, in one Frinton surgery in my constituency, one doctor was trying to serve 8,000 patients. She is absolutely right to avoid the temptation to blame the patients or to suggest that they are the problem. Does she agree that part of the answer is to ensure there are far more attractive terms for would-be GPs? That does not necessarily mean higher salaries—
Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Mr Carswell, interventions are meant to be short, not speeches. I am sure you have got to the point.
Stella Creasy: It is unusual for me to agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I agree that we need to look at how we can attract and retain doctors. We also need to look at what these problems do to the rest of the NHS.
Let me tell the hon. Gentleman about a constituent of mine who had a problem with his eyesight that was caused by high blood pressure. Because he could not get a doctor’s appointment, he left the condition alone. He has now gone blind in one eye and his other eye is at risk. His elderly wife came to me because she did not want to bother the doctor. We have to change that culture and to consider the consequences of not using our resources to deal with those early problems. When we leave somebody like that and they end up going blind, the cost to all of us to help them is much greater than if they had been able to access a GP. We must look at the terms of the job, but also at where the resources are not going. I have been raising those questions with local health care providers.
Michael Fabricant: I am very interested in what the hon. Lady has to say. She said that in her constituency—she must tell me if I have got this wrong—there are a large number of single-doctor practices. Does she not think that that is the cause of the problems, and that the Government should encourage practices to consist of a number of doctors working together?
Stella Creasy: Although I am a doctor, I am not a medical doctor, so I warn the hon. Gentleman that if he needs treatment, he should not come and see me. However, I could tell him why he has no friends—that is the sort of doctorate I have.
No-One Taking Responsibility
There are many issues and the number of single practices might be one of them. My point is that nobody has got a grip of this issue over the past couple of years, despite the fact that I, as the Member of Parliament, have raised concerns. In 2011, the complaints about access to GPs started coming in. I went to the primary care trust, but because of the reorganisation of the NHS, nobody was interested in the case that we were trying to make. The PCT said, “Wait until the CCG is organised.” I tried the new CCG, but six months after saying that it would look into the repeated complaints that I had raised, it said that this was not its issue and told me to go to NHS England.
Initially, NHS England told me that I could not raise the issues on behalf of patients because of patient confidentiality. It could not respond to any of the concerns that I was raising because they related to patient records. It then tried to say that unless the residents had complained to the GPs about GP access, it would not look into the issue, even though I had a binder full of complaints, which showed that it was a problem not just with an individual practice, but with many local practices in my local community. There was widespread concern. The problem continued and, eventually, NHS England came back to me and said, “It’s all right. We’ve spoken to the practices and they have said that if people want an appointment, they can ring up and get one.” It was a circular and deeply frustrating experience.
Mr Bellingham: Will the hon. Lady give way?
Stella Creasy: I will happily give way one last time, but then I want to get on.
Mr Bellingham: I understand the hon. Lady’s annoyance and frustration with her CCG and local health service. In my patch, the CCG is chaired by a GP. It has been incredibly responsive to my concerns and has worked with GP practices. I am just sorry that she has not found that in her patch.
Stella Creasy: I appreciate that that is the hon. Gentleman’s experience. This is precisely my point: why is nobody taking a strategic view of these issues?
I will give the hon. Gentleman an example and it goes to the heart of what the hon. Member for Henley was saying. One concern that people have raised is about missed appointments. The appointments that doctors give people do not always match the times when people need to see them. There is no recording of missed appointments because of the fragmentation of the NHS. Who should take responsibility for that?
A snapshot survey that my CCG did, possibly because of nagging from me, showed that on average 10% of appointments are missed in my local community. However, that is an average. In one surgery, 40% of appointments are missed and in another only 12% of pre-booked appointments are used. Irrespective of whether that is just because patients are missing appointments or because appointments are not at the right time, it is a waste of resources. Surely there is a public interest in having a central co-ordinating body that looks at these issues and at where there are problems in the NHS. It is a waste of money for everyone concerned. Crucially for my constituents, it means that they are not getting access to doctors, even though there may well be the facilities to see them.
Even if people can get access to a doctor, the quality of the practices in my local community is very poor. I know that other Member have raised similar concerns. That might be one reason why it is difficult to retain doctors. I have one practice that has been waiting 25 years to be rebuilt. It serves 12,000 patients. Because of the poor quality of the facilities, it cannot offer some basic services such as blood tests. It has not had central heating since January 2014. That is not an acceptable environment in which to provide a health care service.
The problems with GPs in Walthamstow are not just about the facilities. Since becoming an MP, I have worked with a group called WoWstow, which is a group of women who are fighting to get basic sexual health care services in Walthamstow, because we do not have them. When I talk about basic sexual health care services, I am talking about the provision of contraception, the provision of the coil and the provision of basic facilities to help women maintain their public health. We have doctors who refuse to prescribe such things, and then people wonder why my local area has a level of sexually transmitted diseases that is significantly worse than the national average.
There have been widespread complaints about other doctors, to the extent that the General Medical Council is involved. As far as I can see, there is little concern about how we deal with patients who are asked to go to doctors in respect of whom there are known to be concerns about the quality of care that they provide. Nobody is picking up the pieces. Nobody is gripping the issue to ensure that we do not see health care problems in my local community, which very much needs to be able to access GPs.
Pressures on Other NHS Services
As my hon. Friend the Member for Halton has set out, all of this means that there are pressures on my local hospital, Whipps Cross university hospital. There are concerns about Whipps Cross itself. One resident wrote to me to say, “All I want is to be able to get an appointment for my child and not have to worry that if she or another member of my family ended up at Whipps I would have to fear for our lives, and that is not an exaggeration.” Barts Health, which runs my local hospital, is a large provider of acute services. It serves a population of 2.5 million in north-east London. The Care Quality Commission has taken enforcement action against it in the past couple of years because of the quality of care.
The CQC pointed out that if patients in my local community had access to an urgent care centre, they would be able to see somebody and it would improve the quality of care. However, I have just been told out of the blue that the commissioning process for more urgent care centres has been paused because of a lack of remaining bidders. Again, that is a separate part of the NHS from the GP surgeries and the hospitals that is also trying to deal with patients. The system is fragmented and piecemeal, and that is causing problems in a community that needs health care. Without the urgent care centres, there is a risk that many of the health care services in Walthamstow will simply collapse.
I have written to the Secretary of State about GP access. I have raised it with the CCG and NHS England. We have even organised local patients to act as mystery shoppers and go to doctors’ surgeries to ask to join their patient involvement groups. Not one of those people has been able to join a patient involvement group. That is a problem.
A Health Service for Everyone in Walthamstow
In 1958, Nye Bevan spoke in this place about the point of the NHS:
“Many people have died and many have suffered not because the knowledge was not there, but because they did not have access to it. To all the suffering which attends illness, there was always added the bitterness that, if the poor could have had access to the knowledge available, they might have been saved or, at least, might have been helped. It was this situation that the National Health Service was intended to put right.”—[Official Report, 30 July 1958; Vol. 592, c. 1383.]
Sixty-seven years later, the same concerns remain for a new generation of patients facing lifestyle diseases. I am making an open plea to Ministers at the Department of Health urgently to review the provision of health care in Waltham Forest. Please, let us not make early diagnosis a provision only for the rich in this country.
Access to GPs has been a source of continual complaint to me for the last two years, as residents have found getting appointments within a suitable time difficult. At the same time our Hospital is in crisis and we need to reform our healthcare service so that services work together.
Prior to the election, I secured a promise from the Department of Health to hold a meeting in six months time with whoever is the MP for Walthamstow about progress in resolving the multiple challenges within our local health services. At the meeting last weekend, I made a commitment that if I am re-elected I would raise with Health Minister the top three priorities residents identified.
At this event last Saturday, over 60 local residents joined me hearing firsthand experiences of the challenges facing our NHS. Our discussion was organized into three areas- below are the final ideas the group came up with in each category and what they votedtheir top three priorities for action.
Following this event, I am also seeking an urgent update from Barts Trust regarding the Whipps Cross hospital site and new management plans following the recent CQC inspection. If you would like a copy of this correspondence please sign up for healthcare campaign updates here. Should I be re-elected, I will also seek to meet with the NHS England property services to discuss the healthcare estate in Walthamstow.
The Results – with number of votes for the suggestions:
|Improving Access to GP Services||Improving Hospital Care in Walthamstow||Improving the way Services Work Together|
|Take steps to increase the number of salaried GPs within practices so fewer are sole operators||10||Try to renegotiate the PFI Debt at Barts Trust||12||Reduce the impact of competitive tendering within the NHS leading to fragmentation||14|
|Strategic approach to GP recruitment to get more young GPs and replacing those due to retire||8||Invest in permanent staff to reduce reliance on agency nurses and locums||10||Better integration including: colocation of services, community based teams, named care coordinators for patients, joined up staffing and linked IT systems.||12|
|Increased flexibility in how appointments are offered including; at different times of the day, offered with other types of healthcare professionals||7||Support frontline staff in delivering care||7||Bring GPs within the NHS employment structure||3|
Walthamstow! worried about rising housing costs, homelessness, leasehold issues and rents here? On Wednesday we are holding a public workshop with representatives of some of our local letting and estate agents about housing in our area – all Walthamstow residents are welcome and the meeting will be at 6.30pm at a central Walthamstow venue. Please RSVP here or by sharing your own experiences using the form below to make sure we have enough materials for all who come so we need to know numbers!