Top medical professionals across Camden and Islington have been urged to hold a public consultation on the future of St Pancras Hospital.
Mental health services are currently undergoing the first steps of a major transformation in the two boroughs, with 84 mental health inpatient beds to be relocated from St Pancras to a new site by the Whittington Hospital, alongside the provision of two new community ‘hubs’ providing a range of services, with a third hub remaining at St Pancras.
Councillors sitting on the joint health and care overview and scrutiny committees for the two boroughs were congratulatory on the depth of consultation that had gone into the transformation plans.
However, Cllr Alison Kelly (Lab, Haverstock) complained the committee and the public had been left in the dark on the direction of the redevelopment of the historic site which would fund the plans themselves.
Cllr Kelly (Lab, Haverstock), said: “We’re all particularly interested in what’s going to the St Pancras hospital site, a £90m property in the public domain since the 1840s.
“It’s the wider consultation with stakeholders that are not service users that really appears to be almost completely missing from this.
“We’ve consistently asked for an estates strategy, and your consultation focused on mental health inpatients and hubs, and doesn’t mention estates. So we absolutely have to keep on reiterating our request for a proper estates strategy.
“We would like to reiterate our congratulations on the consultation around mental health services. I would like to be sitting here congratulating you on your consultation around the estates.
“You are experts in mental health, but not experts in estate development. We want to be proud about what’s going to be there.”
Cllr Kelly, alongside Cllr Osh Gantly (Lab, Highbury East) who chaired the meeting of the joint committees on 29 November, had written to Islington clinical commissioning group (CCG) asking for clarification on the vision, values, core principles and priorities of the estate strategy, and called for a commitment to 50 per cent social housing on the redeveloped St Pancras Hospital site.
The councillors reiterated their request for a formal response to their letter at the meeting.
Cllr Tricia Clarke (Lab, St George’s), said: “I want to echo this point about the estates. You’re talking about an acreage of 5.4 acres, with 2.4 acres sold off. It’s a huge amount. We need some scrutiny of the estate strategy, and we need public consultation on it.
“You say one of the St Pancras site’s objectives is to exploit the site’s location near to King’s Cross and St Pancras. It seems like it’s OK to exploit it for the developers, but what about the people who want to use those services? Why can’t we exploit that site for them, too?”
Tony Hoolaghan, chief operating officer for Islington and Haringey’s clinical commissioning groups, said: “We are going to be working with the providers of services in all of the buildings and discussing plans with stakeholders and patients, so just to emphasise that, those discussions will continue.
“We would engage and involve with as many people as possible. I’m sorry you think we haven’t in this document responded to the points you raise in the letter. We think we’ve alluded to them in the document, and if that’s not jumping out for you, maybe we need to spell the points out under all of your headings, and we’d be happy to make it a public document.
“We have said in the document broadly what is going to be happening, and the kind of buildings that will be put on the site.”
Dr Rathini Ratnavel, south-east locality representative for Islington CCG, made clear the reasons why mental health services needed to be relocated and transformed, with 65 per cent of the 260 surveys agreeing with the idea of inpatient beds being moved to the Whittington, and 73 per cent over all agreeing that changes were needed to the way in which services were delivered.
Dr Ratnavel said: “St Pancras is old, some of the bedrooms are shared and tiny, the facilities are just inadequate really.
“There are two parts to the consultation. One is, should beds move. There’s also a secondary issue of how many beds there should be.
“As far as should beds move, there’s very positive and overall support for that part, what’s less clear is the community hubs, and that’s partly because what’s going to be in the hubs and how that’s going to operate, that’s very much a work in progress.
“From a clinical perspective, I don’t think St Pancras is fit for purpose. There have been comments about refurbishing and rebuilding that site, and I don’t think that’s a particularly practical suggestion. Ultimately, in order to move the beds, money has to be generated somewhere in order to make the vision possible.”
Despite the requests for consultation to take place over the future of the St Pancras site, at the close of the meeting it was left briefly unclear whether this would happen, with Hoolaghan responding to a request for a next convenient date to meet by appearing to suggest that consultations were closed.
Hoolaghan said: “This committee was formed for the purposes of the public consultation, but maybe we could talk to you about if you want to meet again about progress?”
Cllr Kelly responded: “Tony, you’re not listening, we’ve asked for further consultation on the estates. Don’t close off the consultation, because you’ve only just started.”
Hoolaghan said: “We’ve got to take that away. Sorry, I misunderstood that, sorry.”