Issue 59 — December 2005
Health centre debate
Primary Care Trust consults on the options
Health provision in Jericho is due for a shake-up. The Oxford City Primary Care Trust (PCT) has been undertaking an extensive process of consultation that could deliver a large new health centre in Walton Street opposite Jude the Obscure on land currently occupied by the Radcliffe Infirmary.
This promises major improvements for Jericho residents. Built in 1971, the current health centre is showing its age: the fabric is crumbling and the building suffers from occasional leaks and overflows from the St. Paul’s House flats above it, some of which are private and some Council-owned.
The centre is also bursting at the seams. It houses three practices that look after around 12,000 people – though most come from outside Jericho which has only around 2,500 residents. The centre subsequently expanded slightly, taking in an adjacent dry-cleaning shop at the top of Cranham Street, but it still has very little room – the three practice nurses, for example, share a single treatment room which raises problems of privacy for patients.
In addition, many activities cannot be fitted in at all. Nowadays, the NHS offers a much wider range of services and ideally the building should also provide space, for example, for counsellors, physiotherapists and community mental health workers.
As Dr Andy Chivers, one of the doctors at the centre and also Chair of the PCT’s Professional Executive Committee, points out, a new centre would allow a number of practices to share these services. One proposal is for a ‘single site’ that could house not just the Jericho practices, but also some or all of those in Beaumont Street. Dr Chivers says: “The main challenge for the new building is to maintain that personal link between doctors and patients and have practices confident in their own identity”. At the same time the new centre would also be able to provide X-ray and other services that will otherwise have to move far from Jericho when the Radcliffe closes.
This would be good news for Jericho residents. But people elsewhere are less convinced. Some patients in the Beaumont Street practices, who could come from St. Ebbe’s or Botley Road, might not welcome a trip along Walton Street which at present is difficult to reach by public transport.
That is why alternatives are being offered. These might involve twinning a new but smaller Walton Street centre with another new one, either in Wellington Square or Tidmarsh Lane (off Park End Street). Another option is simply to refurbish the existing buildings. Those in Beaumont Street, for example, would need better disabled access.
There are also questions about financing. The new centre would have to be built with a mixture of public and private funds, through the Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT)– which means that the NHS would lease the building, initially for 25 years. Some critics claim that the PCT is acting with undue haste and pushing more for the single site – because this would be more attractive to the private sector. However, the PCT also has a 40% share in LIFT so the two are by no means independent.
Dr Chivers responds: “On the funding side, the PCT has no other source to enable this sort of work. And in terms of haste, we are stuck with a timetable dictated by the University when it purchased the RI site. We are keen on the single-site option because it is the only site with planning permission for health. We could lose this opportunity and then find the other sites were refused”.
The public consultation ends on December 22nd. Thus far opinions have probably come more from people outside Jericho since Jericho residents, who might be more supportive of the single site in Walton Street, have not seen the need to comment. You can get information sheets by calling 226900 or on the web from www.oxfordcity-pct.nhs.uk. The PCT has to come to a decision at its January meeting so as to be able to make an offer for the Infirmary site by the end of March, or it will lose that option.