Following my earlier detailed post on this subject I was concerned at the lack of support we were receiving from our MP and I went along to his surgery to discuss this and several other local issues I felt needed urgent attention. The following weekend he published the above article in Great Barr Observer and I have to say he is very supportive.
Around the same date I had a response from the Chair of the PCT which with their permission I publish below.
Sandwell Primary Care Trust
438 High Street
Tel 0845 155 0500
Fax 0121 612 1500
I refer to your recent e-mail regarding the planned health care facility in the Great Barr/Newton area and have looked into the current situation prior to making this response.
I can confirm that twelve sites in the local area have been given full consideration but were found to be unavailable, undeliverable or unsuitable. However, I would also like to reassure you that the PCT has continued to search for possible sites in the area and that this development remains a priority for the PCT. I personally have involved myself in recent work to identify further suitable sites and can confirm that the PCT is putting additional resources into this process so that it can be concluded as quickly as possible.
The PCT still plans to deliver a new health care facility in the area by the end of 2011, the timescale has slipped against our original plans but this reflects the difficulty we have experienced in procuring land.
I would also like to confirm that when suitable land options have been identified there will be a formal engagement process involving local people, locally elected representatives and local GPs to identify a preferred site.
Please be assured that the PCT remains committed to delivering this development for the benefit of local people in the Great Barr/Newton area.
I have also been to the surgeries of Cllrs. Underhill and Hosell and written to them on the issue. Their responses to the letter are published below.
From Cllr. Joyce Underhill
Local representatives and local G.P.s have identified a site - Tanhouse. The letter doesn't move the issue on really.
From Cllr. Underhill
Still awaiting a response from Council officers not only on the visit to Tanhouse which I am assuming has taken place but the result of Dr. Chitre's visit. Mr. Singh - the chemist - knows Dr. Chitre has met officers. I don't know why there is this wall of secrecy.
Letter sounds ok.
From Cllr. David Hosell
"Hi Bob, I would like to say a personal well done to you. It proves that if a community has someone who champions a cause that is just and is intended to benefit all who live there can be taken forward. It is surprising how quickly people jump on side when they realise that what is being asked for is a necessity and not a pipe dream. It is essential that Hamstead/Great Barr get their Clinic as soon as possible. I feel that with the support of people like Tom Watson MP and all of our local Councillors, your and our target will be achieved for the benefit of our community. Keep the pressure on.
Yours CLLR David Hosell."
From Cllr. Hosell
"Hi Bob, I think YOUR letter states the feelings of all concerned. It should allay a few fears in the local community concerning the possible loss of the Tanhouse centre for community use and activities, I have been asked to bear in mind that the centre is one of the most used of its type in Sandwell, and I have been spending considerable time in explaining the reasoning of duel use for this facility. Bearing this in mind I feel that we should ensure information on any progress is passed on to local users as a matter of urgency. However my feelings are that a Health/Centre comes first. To ensure the needs of all the residents of Hamstead and Great Barr are delivered.
Yours CLLR David Hosell."
From Tom Watson MP
"Seems fine to me Bob"
My reply to the PCT reads as follows:-
Sandwell Primary Care Trust
Health care facility in Great Barr
Thank you for your letter of the 13th March 2009 re the above.
Whilst I am pleased that at last senior members of the PCT are taking an interest in this project there are many aspects of your letter that give cause for concern.
It is very clear to me that recent correspondence between myself and our local political leadership at all levels shows clearly that we want to see Tanhouse Community Centre has the preferred site. I don’t think anyone accepts the reasons for the delay and certainly a finish time for this almost three years late is by any standards poor.
The Tanhouse Centre is available as an interim measure and there is sufficient land on the site which I believe to be Council owned to do the new build. The site is on three major bus routes, has suitable car parking facilities and is available now. We would be setting a model of care for other centres to follow with both health and community activities within the same site. Why the delay? Using Tanhouse you could have an interim clinic up and running easily by the end of 2009 and although this would still be late I believe it would be acceptable and certainly better for all concerned than your new target date which as far as I can see is not cast in stone. I understand that Rob Bacon has visited the site with a Council officer but I am not privy to their deliberations. The PCT have a facility at St. Bernard’s Church Centre which I understand is only partly used. I do not understand how we can seemingly be doing some duplication here. Clarification on the future of this site will in my opinion be necessary.
I look forward to the formal engagement process starting very soon.
My best regards
Clearly there is still much to do. I am reminded of the unscientific amateurish survey the trust carried out after the closure of Dr. Abyhankars surgery. It was designed in such a way to give them the answer they wanted. Even with a one sided survey they had to do it twice because they originally only approached households and not patients. They do not seem to have learned from that experience. I suppose I must appear to be a bit of an arrogant thorn in their side so I do not expect to be part of any formal engagement process. They will be looking for tame participants. I don’t mind this one bit just as long as we get our clinic and it is not three years late.
Watch this space there is a long way to go. We need a top level meeting with PCT and our political leadership to set some time lines for the project. Whilst I have the energy I intend to continue this campaign until our clinic is up and running. This is round 3 of what is likely to be a 15 round contest unless one of us gets knocked out.
What can the ordinary citizen do when so clearly a monolithical organisation like a PCT are failing the area they are supposed to support? I feel it’s a bit like a David and Goliath conflict so bring on my sling and stones.