At a meeting today in the constituency office of Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, NHS Property Services announced that they are to carry out a full refurbishment of the East Barnet Health Centre, with work starting by the end of March, and re-opening planned for the end of September or early October. Funding of £970,000 has been secured, and most of the work needed to appoint contractors has been completed.
The meeting was chaired by Theresa Villiers and attended by representatives from NHS Property Services, NHS England, NHS Barnet CCG, Barnet Council Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Cllr Alison Cornelius), East Barnet GPs, and local residents, Helen Pryce and Jennifer Grocock.
Helen, Jennifer and Theresa all emphasised strongly at the meeting that the current situation was unacceptable, that the health centre needed to re-open as soon as possible, and that urgent action had to be taken to address the problems with Vale Drive health centre which is providing temporary accommodation for the East Barnet GPs.
Following the meeting, Theresa Villiers said "The current situation is intolerable for my constituents. What they were told was a short term closure of a few weeks has turned into months with little or no work being carried out over recent weeks. I welcome the confirmation that the NHS will carry out a full refurbishment of East Barnet Health Centre. This was the preferred option for most patients because a full rebuild could have taken up to four years. Now the key goal for me is to keep up the pressure on the NHS to deliver on the timetable they have announced."
"It is also vital that terms are agreed between the NHS and the GPs regarding a new lease and terms of occupation at the refurbished centre. We need to ensure the problems which occurred with Brunswick Park health centre are not repeated with months of wrangling between NHS Property Services and GPs before the new centre actually re-opened."
"NHS Property Services also need to do all they can to manage the project effectively so we don't see weeks of slippage on the date they have announced today."
"In the meantime, it is vital that problems with Vale Drive are addressed. For example, patients are finding it very hard to get through to the surgery on the phone. The GPs and their staff there having been doing their best in difficult circumstances. These problems are not down to them. They need to be addressed by NHS Property Services."
"I welcome the news that an order has been placed with BT for a new phone system to expand capacity at Vale Drive and enable an automated check in to be set up to address problems with build up of queues and pressure on reception staff. I will be contacting BT to urge them to get the work done as soon as possible. We also heard today about the possibility of the NHS providing a shuttle bus between East Barnet Health Centre and Vale Drive which could help mitigate some of the problems with parking and travel to Vale Drive."
"Today's meeting represents real progress, but I will continue to do all I can to support residents in their highly effective campaign on this issue. I hope to work together with residents to ensure we hold the NHS's feet to the fire to get this promised work done."
NHS Property Services also indicated at the meeting that some work at the health centre would continue after the planned re-opening date because construction of a lift to improve disabled access would require planning permission and would therefore take longer than the rest of the project. They also promised to improve communication with patients. Helen Pryce told the meeting that the anger and frustration of residents about continued closure of the health centre was compounded by not having enough information on what was happening.
Assurances were also given on the safety of health records stored at East Barnet Health Centre. The building is protected by 24 hour security.