With councillors Malik, Newman and Sawyer in the public gallery to help
justify their allowances the audience number just managed to reach double
figures but after half an hour they disappeared and who can blame them, there
was little to relieve the tedium and with a wife and toddler waiting in Witham
there is no real contest for Alex Sawyer.
The meeting was chaired by councillor Ross Downing who did her best to keep things interesting with a light-hearted and sometimes jokey approach. Not everyone agreed it was appropriate but maybe they are still amazed by her husband performance last week.
There was half a dozen NHS professionals there. Mr. Pharoah representing the London Health Programme told us that cancer still had “poor outcomes” because of “late diagnosis” which I think most of us knew already. Earlier in the day I heard that a friend prescribed Ibuprofen, Codeine and a trip to a chiropractor for a painful back and much reduced mobility suffered all year is now believed to have myeloma of the spine. Most people will have a similar story to tell. Councillor Ashmole asked what Mr. Pharoah was doing about it but was told only that the situation was “complicated”.
The ambulance service man was interesting. Philip de Bruyn told us that since Queen Mary’s A&E Department closed, journeys to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, had risen to 9,759 (up 45%). Darent Valley Hospital to 3,890 (up 48%) and to the Princess Royal in Farnborough, 1301 (up 372%). To Sidcup the figure had fallen to 179 (down 3·5%). Overall the numbers had gone up (†) as were those classified as life-threatening.
Councillor Ball asked if there was a surge in 999 ambulance calls early in the morning because people don’t expect much from over-night medical services these days. The answer was “No”, the peak came in the middle of Monday morning because people couldn’t get hold of their doctors at the weekend and when they did get to see them there was a surge of GP referrals. Once again the GPs seem to be the weakest link.
Mr. de Bruyn modestly told an impressive story of mainly on target results for the local ambulance service including some which were UK best.
"The Chief Midwife’s report I would not describe as modest. Once again some impressive statistics were presented. 60 more midwives compared to a year ago. “Serious Incidents” reduced by a half. A new water birthing facility at Farnborough producing a “High woman satisfaction rate”. Consultants on call at all times. Plenty to be proud of I am sure, but it was all a little over-done and tinged with condescension. It was left to councillor Lucia-Hennis to bring the Chief Midwife down to earth with a bump. She said something like, “I have been presented with three new grandchildren this year. None of the mothers were told of the wonderful new facilities at Farnborough and elsewhere”.
Something that characterised all the medical reports was the excessive use of acronyms. I knew what ENT was, I could work out what CS was because it was in a maternity context. I guessed that the HSMR was something to do with mortality rates but the U of SUI remained a mystery. Only councillor Gillespie was honest enough or perhaps brave enough to own up that he was having to guess too. Chairman Downing gently chided him for his ignorance. The medical professionals filled in some of the gaps in our knowledge.
Towards the end of the meeting the future of the Queen Mary's Hospital site was discussed. Those interested should take a look at last night’s agenda (Go to Page 41 for the QMH update) as it is far too long to be summarised here. However the council’s planning officer reminded the meeting that QMH was subject to “green belt protection” so any development must be severely restricted. His four sentences delivered at close to ten o'clock will have done his time off in lieu status no harm at all.
By then the number in the public gallery had fallen to the five usual suspects. The press was not represented.
† Ambulance journeys 25 November 2010 to 31 August 2011.