ALTHOUGH the number of London residents who responded to the publication Healthcare for London: Consulting the Capital was small, this is not to say that people in London do not care about what is happening to health facilities and what plans are being hatched to change radically the existing set-up.
Prompted by a letter made available at my own GP and written by the focus group Keep my NHS GP Local, I wrote to Healthcare for London. I put six questions to them about availability and access to my existing GPs and nurses, polyclinics and money. I received a letter in reply which led me to download the response to issues which had been raised.
The response was friendly but low on facts and high on supposition. Even though numbers were small they claim a consensus in support of their plans. A meeting took place on June 12 to "agree a set of recommendations to shape the health strategy for London for the next 10 years". They are going ahead -surprise, surprise.
The response implies that the poly-clinic idea has general acceptance. For instance we read that the Royal College of GPs, described as the largest membership organisation in the UK solely for GPs, supports the model. And yet the Evening Standard of June 22 reported that The Save Our Surgeries petition organised by the British Medical Association received support from 1,196,000 people.
Concern about further privatisation is brushed aside despite the fact that the US firm United Healthcare won the contract for three surgeries in Camden. The smell of money has brought out the hounds at the Ealing roadshow. A doctor showed me a letter from the Branson organisation offering to take the running of their practice. Privatisation of services is at the heart of EU policies.
David Sissling, programme director of the Strategic Health Authority, said "the response to the consultation"(which cost the NHS £1m) has been excellent. Over 3,500 individuals and organisations responded, more that 4,000 members of the public visited the 35 roadshows and we have had over 20,000 visitors to the website".
From a London electorate of 5.3 million just 3,500 individuals and organisations responded - 0.07 per cent of voters - at a cost of £15m. The average cost per response was over £4,000. The average claimed attendance at a roadshow many of which were staged all day long in walk-through venues such as shopping centres and which permitted no organised debate, was 114.
The attendance at the Foundation Hospital meetings was very small and yet I learnt at Ealing Town Hall that three halls had been booked-Victoria Hall, Queens Hall and the Elizabeth Cantell Room - at a cost of at least £2,000. Only the Victoria Hall was used: the 114 figure was about right for the Ealing roadshow. There was no debate or question and answer sessions: we merely filled out a questionnaire.
When I attended the A&E Department recently at Ealing Hospital I took the opportunity of the waiting time to talk to patients and staff. No one knew about the Ealing roadshow but all said: "They won't take any of what we say. They have already decided what they intend to do." That's what people think, and in my letter to Healthcare for London that is how I finished my letter.