Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Chase Farm Hospital: Joan Ryan moans about progress

Last night the Royal Free held a meeting in Enfield town to update us on the rebuilding of Chase Farm Hospital (CFH). The news is good. Despite the extraordinary haste progress is on or even a little ahead of the plan and demolition of unwanted buildings will start in September.

The design has changed from a rectangular block with two courtyards to a spine with fingers - said to be more flexible. Also, and following, public pressure and advice from clinicians, the ground floor of the Highlands block will be used for rehab rather than being mothballed.

The new hospital will have 8 operating theatres, 48 inpatient surgical beds and 44 rehab beds. That's less than the current number of beds (c130) though hospital director Fiona Jackson tells me that some of those are unfunded - but not unused. Jackson stressed that medicine is seeing a rapid shift from in to out patient treatment so that fewer beds will be needed.

The Royal Free team has reserved an area of 800 sq m for a GP surgery but will only build the surgery if commissioned by the Clinical Commissioning Group ( CCG). Negotiations are in hand. This is clearly unfortunate but there's still time to get it right.

The Royal Free wants the new hospital to be embedded in the local community. The hospital gardens, shop, pharmacy and GP surgery (if any) will be immediately accessible from main entrance and open to local residents.

I raised the issue of disease prevention, making the point that the severity of many of today's medical problems, obesity and diabetes for instance, are strongly affected by lifestyle choices. Fiona Jackson made positive noises about smoking, fitness and fruit. Chocolate bars are no longer displayed next to the shop till and part of the restaurant will become an exercise area.

The only sour note was struck by Joan Ryan, MP, who, as at the Planning Committee in April, seemed determined to find fault with the plans. Ryan made a speech when asked to ask questions. She spoke at excessive length and generally muddied the waters on beds, space, nurses pay, etc. I thought the Royal Free's answers were pretty good.

She also repeated her claim that new CFH will be just a 'cottage hospital'. There's no formal definition of the term 'cottage hospital' but actual cottage hospitals typically have less than 20 beds; not the 92 planned for the new CFH. There was strong hostility to her from some people in the audience.

Ryan seems determined to discredit the plans and won't let the facts get in the way. Come on Joan, the election is over.

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