I was disappointed by the hospital debate at the Town Hall yesterday evening. There was a good turnout and there were pretty much bang on 300 people there (14 rows of 24 chairs at 80%-90% full with about 20 standing). The audience unfortunately included very few “civilians” – the uninterested (meaning without interests) and the persuadable – either way. The vast majority were local politicians, health service workers and trade unionists who had come to make their points rather than listen to a debate with an open mind.
Of the 22 questions asked up to 9pm 9 were asked by local politicians (Cllrs Kaur, Kang, Dheer, Costello, Anand and Bell, MP Virendra Sharma, Ealing Southall Respect Party candidate Salvinder Dhillon and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate in the London Assembly elections Mark Benjamin. Four members of the Ealing Save Our Hospitals campaign, Dr Paramjit Sandhu, Bridget Ogden, Fran Tindall and Colin Stanfield asked questions as did Hammersmith hospitals activist James Doheny.
One chap with long hair at the back, who didn’t identify himself, told us that there were “some crooks in the room tonight” and that he didn’t “really have a question”. I met him selling copies of the Socialist Worker on my way out with another person. Similarly Tony Gill who described himself as a Hanwell resident from the West London Socialist Party was later outside with two others selling their paper called the Socialist which featured hospital pneumatic tube carriers. The tube carriers safely and reliably transport lab specimens, IVs, pharmaceuticals, documents, supplies and other materials throughout the hospital’s pneumatic tube system. Click here to learn about hospital pneumatic tube systems. Robert Sale from trade union campaign Brent Fightback was another at-the-backer.
That left 5 questions from “civilians” – possibly. Tranjit from Southall called the consultation “self-fulfilling” and asked why we had choose between hospitals. Inderjit who had previously sat on the council’s own health panels talked about Southall’s particular health issues. A “working man” tried to draw parallels with the time of the Thatcher government and asked if we would be driven out of country in search of healthcare. An Ealing hospital nursing sister called Jenny of 26 years standing talked of Southall’s specific health issues and its “hidden population”. Finally a “resident of 40 years” talked with the angry sense of loss that many older people feel when contemplating the modern world.
Between the chairman, Victoria Macdonald, Health correspondent of Channel 4, and the two microphone carriers (both from the SOH Ealing campaign), not enough effort was made to find a broader range of actual questions rather than well rehearsed, often political positions. Dr Sahota spent much of the meeting waving at the microphone carriers so maybe that explains the narrow range of the questioners we heard from.
The problem we have in Ealing is that NHS NWL has come up with a response to the Nicholson challenge that piles the pain of the whole region onto us. It is inequitable. We are right to fight it. We need NHS NWL to think again and work out how to square the circle fairly. NHS NWL cannot change the macroeconomics but they can work out how not to screw our borough. The howls of rage from the left (including the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party all selling their newspapers outside the hall last night) are diluting what should be our central message which is that NHS NWL need to come up with a fairer solution.