Councillor James Hunt chaired another of his People Overview and Scrutiny
Committee meetings last night in his usual affable and occasionally jokey style.
It’s not something the far more straitlaced chairmen councillors Steven Hall and Melvin
Seymour could pull off. Not initially to my taste but with James in charge there
has been no downside and his meetings are no less productive for it.
His is a fairly big job, although whether it is worth £2,200 a time is debatable, and at its peak last night James had 44 people in his rather large circle.
Two members of the public were present, straining for a view. One was me and neither stayed the course. In my case I preferred to get home and help dispel yesterday’s silly rumour. There’s also the fact that the last few items on the Agenda will be much the same as those that go before next week’s scrutiny meetings, and if events conspire to make the early off a mistake, there is always the webcast to fall back upon.
The most interesting part of the People meeting is the input from the medical staff and the police. Here’s some of the snippets of information that were imparted. Dartford & Gravesham, Lewisham & Greenwich and Oxleas Trusts were all represented and they were pleased to report that work had commenced on their Winter plan in April and not October as it did in 2014. Things should be better as a result.
The impact of yesterday’s junior doctors’ strike - which was called off - was “minimal” and “not huge”. A few clinics were cancelled. General Practice carried on as normal.
There was an emphasis on keeping elderly people out of hospital whenever possible as it isn’t always the best course of action however “it is not about keeping people out of hospital, if they need to be in hospital they will be in hospital”.
The QEH A&E is “bucking the national trend” and any delay is generally due to the lack of capacity in the main hospital. Very occasionally this has caused ambulances to be queued, but the situation is improving. “The A&E area is a very tight space and it is very difficult to identify a suitable [new] area.”
The number of consultants in QEH at the weekend is two compared to 20 during the week. “There is a lack of logic in that.”
“We are seeing an increase in emergency admissions at Lewisham & Greenwich. Patients appear to be sicker than they used to be.” This may be due to the “success of chronic health care.” The elderly appear to be surviving instead of dying but they do not always get totally better. (BiB comment not the medics!)
Tuberculosis is at a particularly high level in the borough of Greenwich, one of the highest in the country but Bexley is “not anywhere near such a significant problem”.
The London Ambulance Service is in Special Measures but there are already some improvements in place and “a significant additional resource” has been provided.
Note: Because Bexley council does not allow the public a view of name plates it is not possible to attribute a comment to a particular organisation’s representative. The result is that it is likely that not all of the forgoing applies to every hospital.
Police commander Jeff Boothe said there had been 630 fewer offences in the past twelve months than in the same period last year. The target is to reduce the year on year rolling figure by 10% by March 2016. The figure currently stands at 10·3%. It was 3·9% when he came to Bexley.
Knife crime is down from 22 incidents to 20.
Burglary, criminal damage and domestic injury still gave rise to concern although burglaries are on an improving trend. 249, 189 and 149 fewer than last year in the central, north and south ward “clusters” respectively. In St. Michael’s ward there were no burglaries in October.
Most offences are opportunistic; windows left open etc.
“Criminal damage we are not doing too well on. 40% of it is against motor vehicles.” 15 were ‘keyed’ in one incident which took place in a Danson ward housing association secure car park. The lock had broken and no one was much bothered about fixing it. Domestic injuries were up by 1·3% but “it is high on their agenda”.
There was an arrest in October in Danson ward of a man selling “large quantities of legal highs to under 18 year olds”.
17 firearms had been handed in under the current amnesty, “ten of them could have been used”.
The impact of recent good budget news (no police cuts) will not be fully known until next year but there may still be reductions in Bexley due to diversion to other priorities; cybercrime, terrorism etc.
The lack of lighting in parts of Welling had not shown any “spike’ in offences and there were no plans to “put in extra resources”. During this brief reference to the council’s lighting experiment one councillor referred to the off times being midnight until 05:30 which are the officially stated times. However the ward councillor said the start time was 00:30 which will explain why the lights were on when I went to take a look at 00:15.
The Chief Superintendent had other commitments and consequently left after about 30 minutes.