Joan Ryan, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Enfield North, has warned that the future of Chase Farm Hospital is not guaranteed, despite the redevelopment plans for the Hospital being given the go ahead.
Speaking at a meeting of Enfield Council’s Planning Committee, on Thursday 12th March, when the proposals for Chase Farm were approved Joan Ryan said the Tory-led Government were in no position to offer assurances to the people of Enfield regarding the long-term viability of the site. She recalled that before the last election David Cameron and Nick de Bois promised to protect Chase Farm’s Accident & Emergency department and Maternity Unit. They were closed by the Tories in 2013.
In her deputation to Councillors, she raised concerns regarding the downgrading of the redevelopment proposals. Citing a recent letter from David Sloman, Chief Executive of the Royal Free London NHS Trust, to the Leader of Enfield Council, Doug Taylor, she revealed the size of the renovated clinical facilities would be reduced from the originally proposed 32,000sqm to 25,000sqm. “These plans are very small and include all corridors, toilets and cupboards and are not what most of us consider to be a Hospital”, Ms Ryan noted.
The letter also states there would be no guarantees the Highlands Wing of the Hospital - a surgical block only opened in 1995, and which has been mothballed under the current plans - would be safe from being closed for good. David Sloman can give no assurances that any money that’s made from selling off land is invested in better services at the hospital.
The current redevelopment plans include new healthcare facilities, a primary school and housing.
Joan Ryan, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Enfield North, said:
“I warned before the last election that the Tories would close the A&E department and maternity unit at Chase Farm. Nick de Bois promised it would not happen, but it did. Now he is giving similar assurances about the Hospital’s future, which given his track record, I am sure many Enfield residents will find hard to believe. I notice Nick de Bois now refers to a healthcare campus and David Sloman refers to healthcare facilities when talking about Chase Farm. I say we need and want a Hospital.
There is nothing in this planning application from the Royal Free that ensures there is a guaranteed future for Chase Farm Hospital – warm words are not enough. It is the deathblow to the pledge made before the 2010 election by Nick de Bois and the Prime Minister David Cameron. It is neither as big as a Hospital nor is it as permanent. The “new” buildings will actually be prefabricated pods that will be built off-site and craned in – and could just as easily be craned out.
I am not against any redevelopment on the site. The old buildings need to be replaced. However a 25,000sqm Hospital is very small. We have seen the plans for Chase Farm revised and downgraded time and again. Last December, we learnt that Highlands Wing – a surgical block that only opened in 1995 - would be mothballed. Now we see that the overall plans for clinical services on site will be less than originally planned.
There won’t be any intensive care unit on-site, either. What sort of hospital doesn’t have any intensive care? And, if this is a genuine redevelopment, why are they shutting even more wings and the beds in them?
Whilst there are planning restrictions in place so that land not currently being built on is reserved for future healthcare use, this will not preclude the Royal Free from seeking to change the planning designation on this land at a later date, so that it can be sold off. This does not offer the reassurance Enfield people have a right to expect.
There are also a number of concerns I have about the housing plans for the site. Only 66 out of the 500 planned homes will be for affordable housing - 53 of which will be on offer to key workers with 13 as social housing units. There are no guarantees that the surgeons, doctors, immunologists, radiographers, nurses, porters and other important front-line staff currently living on the site will be housed at Chase Farm once the redevelopment plans have been completed. As a consequence, there is a real risk that Chase Farm will lose dozens of vital staff and even more services will have to close.
Having spoken to a number of residents from Shooters Road and Ridge Crest, they are concerned about how the changes to the site, particularly the access to the new school, will impact upon the roads on which they live. The consultations with residents on this matter should have been far more inclusive and in-depth.
The Royal Free needs to be far more open and transparent on the Chase Farm Hospital proposals with Enfield residents. I am concerned that the Foundation Trust has been too secretive regarding the financial viability of the Chase Farm site – the NHS belongs to the people and we should have the right to see this information. It seems to me that the Royal Free does not trust the people of Enfield with the full facts about Chase Farm. It is no wonder that the people do not trust them in return.”
Picture courtesy of Enfield Advertiser