Labour councillors will be raising the continued closure of East Barnet Health Centre at the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Monday 9 February in a Member's Item submitted by Cllr Amy Trevethan - Underhill Councillor and Labour parliamentary candidate for Chipping Barnet.
Local patients and residents who want their Health Centre reopened after being boarded up for eight months to remove asbestos have kept up the pressure by putting their case directly to the centre owners at a meeting on Wednesday 4 February, supported by East Barnet Labour councillor Philip Cohen. But they have still not been given a definite re-opening date or even a date when refurbishment work might start.
At that meeting the health centre owners, NHS Property Services, admitted that ‘they dropped the ball’ by not keeping patients and residents informed about the delays in removing extra asbestos found during the work. The owners set out a number of options including refurbishing the building or demolishing it and rebuilding a totally new centre.
A new centre could take three to four years and frustrated centre users made clear that would be completely unacceptable – they want their centre back even if takes a few months to properly refurbish it.
Due to the closure patients have been forced to go a mile and a 20-minute bus drive away to temporary facilities at Vale Drive clinic in High Barnet for treatment, but they are struggling to get appointments because the clinic’s phone system is overloaded due to the strain of the extra calls. The owners accepted they had given wrong information in letters to patients, and they agreed to meet residents regularly to report on progress.
Cllr Cohen had written to NHS Property Services demanding answers to questions such as how much longer would the centre be closed for and would they dispel rumours that the site would be sold to developers. At that point they could not give a timescale but they have stated they have no plans to sell the building.
The issue was also raised at a meeting of East Barnet Residents Association where people said confidential health records were still locked up inside the centre. Residents suggested protesting to Barnet Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) about the closure and those involved in successfully pressing for Brunswick Park health centre to re-open said only direct action and community pressure worked.
Local resident, Helen Pryce, and fellow centre users have set up a Facebook group "East Barnet Health Centre: Come Home".
Helen Pryce said: "We are disappointed that even after the meeting with NHS Property Services we have no start date for the work to begin nor any date for when a decision will be made. We feel that we have been left high and dry and excluded from the process. No consultation was made until after we started to protest .We do not feel that even after our views have been sought our wishes will be adhered to."
Cllr Amy Trevethan said: "We really need some answers about when the East Barnet health centre will be re-opened, and what alternative arrangements will be put in place for patients in the meantime as it is just not good enough to leave patients high and dry for months on end with absolutely no resolution in sight."
Cllr Philip Cohen said: "I am amazed and impressed by Helen and her colleagues who have stood up for the rights of local people to have healthcare delivered close to where they live. I could tell from the faces of the owners that this has been a wake-up call to ensure they are transparent in their dealings and end the closure as soon as possible."
Notes to editors:
1. Cllr Trevethan: email@example.com
2. Cllr Cohen: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Cllr Trevethan's Member's Item can be found here: http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s20963/East%20Barnet%20Health%20Centre.pdf
To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8359 2568