21 April 2011

Forest Hill in Bloom

Many thanks to everybody involved in planting the flowers around Forest Hill station over the last couple of weeks. We hope everybody enjoys the improvements this will make to the station forecourt and the station platforms.

14 April 2011

Royal Wedding in Forest Hill

The Forest Hill Society in conjuction with the 'Sylvan Post' will be organising a celebration from 2-5pm at the old post office on Dartmouth Road.

From 2-5pm, on Friday 29th April, we will be holding a wedding party in and outside the Old Post Office. Antic (the owners) will be selling bottled beers/ciders and if a nice day set out a living room outside. Please bring food to share as well as friends & family and lets enjoy a day off in Forest Hill!

Fun activities for all:
  • Pin the crown on the prince and princess
  • Fancy dress competition best prince and princess
  • Guess the weight of the cake
  • Royal wedding themed art activities

Bunting provided by Messy Makers and Stag & Bow.

13 April 2011

Bursting into Bloom

The Forest Hill Society’s entry in the London in Bloom ‘It’s your neighbourhood’ category has been accepted. The Localities’ Fund award from Lewisham Council is agreed and dates are set.

Forest Hill station forecourt will be the centre of our attention – being the most visible point of entry and exit in our town, but with a leafleting and poster campaign in the offing, we hope to inspire individuals, shops and businesses to brighten up their homes, shops and premises with flowers.

The programme is: Saturday 9 April 10.00am – 1.00pm: work with volunteers from Nature’s Gym to help dig the existing beds.

Saturday 16 April from 2.30pm: All ages welcome to help with the replanting. If you join in, many hands will make light work of transforming the station forecourt into a thing of beauty. Forest Hill will bloom this year!

08 April 2011

Bring & Take

The Forest Hill Society and The Friends of Devonshire Road Nature Reserve are running another Bring and Take Day at the Devonshire Rd. Nature Reserve, 170 Devonshire Road, SE23 3SZ on Sunday 10th April 11.00 – 3.00pm

Bring something you no longer need…….

Bicycles, Push-chairs, Hard-back books, CD’s, DVD’s, Small items of Furniture, Household Ornaments, Musical Instruments, High-quality Clothing, Footwear, Tools, Electrical goods, Kitchenware etc

Take something you can put to good use!!

All items should be in good working order
No bric-a-brac or general re-cycling

Tea, Coffee and homemade cakes for sale and the Nature Reserve will be open for visitors

06 April 2011

NHS Reforms - The Health and Social Care Bill explained

In light of the recent media coverage of the NHS reforms, we thought it would be useful to hear the views of someone impacted by the changes. Penelope Jarrett, Forest Hill Society Member and a GP in Lewisham, is worried about the proposed NHS reforms and summarises her main arguments here. If you want to know where or how information was derived, please contact her via penelope@foresthillsociety.com.

The views expressed here are those of Dr Jarrett and not necessarily those of the Society.

Introduction: Some History

The National Health Service was born in 1948, in the aftermath of the Second World War. A patchwork provision of charitable and private healthcare was nationalised so that healthcare would be free, available to all and of uniform quality no matter where people lived nor what their background. The service was run as a single system, administered by regional and district health authorities. The first big change came with the introduction of the internal market by the Conservative government in the 1990s. The service was split into “purchasers” of care and “providers” of care: the NHS was made to buy services from itself. At this time there was also an experiment with “GP fundholding”, where instead of the health authority purchasing services, GP practices could buy services for their patients.

The Labour Government after 2001 entrenched and extended the internal market. The Department of Health (DH) is not open about the figures, but the Health Select Committee has recently estimated that the transaction costs of the NHS have gone up from 5% of total NHS expenditure to 14% over the last 20 years in which this market has been operating. There is some evidence that fundholding allowed GPs to make some savings by lowering the demand for clinical services, but this was at the cost of higher managerial and transaction costs, and a substantial drop in patient satisfaction.

In 2000, the UK was spending just 6% of GDP on health. The Labour Government pledged to increase this up to the EU average of 8%, and spending went up from £35bn in 1997/98 to around £98bn in 2009/10 and will be £102bn in 2010/11. However, we still lag behind the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average, because expenditure has risen in other countries too.

This increased expenditure coincided with a number of other policies such as targets on waiting times, and evidence based policies such as the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE, popular with clinicians) which saw patient satisfaction levels soar from a low of 35 % (quite or very satisfied) in 1997 to an all time high of 64% in 2009 (the latest reported survey). Politicians have commented how the NHS was not an issue during the election campaign of 2010, because people were generally happy.

Despite this, and despite the Conservative pre-election promise of “no top down reorganisation of the NHS”, Andrew Lansley is proposing reforms in the NHS which will be so big that they will be “visible from space” (according to David Nicholson, NHS Chief Executive).

The Proposed Reforms

The headlines have all been about GP commissioning, but this huge piece of legislation (288 clauses) changes all parts of the NHS. At the same time, there are White Papers proposing major changes to the Public Health Service, and to the training of doctors.
  • PCTs and Strategic Health Authorities to be abolished
  • New commissioning consortia of GPs
  • New NHS Commissioning Board; working only on an annual mandate (so not opportunity for long term planning) to commission GPs as providers, and to judge commissioners.
  • All hospitals to achieve Foundation Trusts status, with no obligation to observe national pay and conditions, and removal of the cap in private earnings.
  • Establishment of Monitor, a new economic and licensing regulator, with a duty to promote competition; and powers to investigate commissioner and providers, and to fine or impose change on them.
  • New Health Education England, new “local skills networks” for training
  • New Health and Wellbeing Boards in each Local Authority
  • Abolition of the Health Protection Agency, new Public Health England
  • Replacement of Local Involvement Networks (LINks, themselves only 3 years old and just getting established) with local HealthWatch, with unclear lines of accountability, and no specification to ensure the bodies are representative of the local population. It is unclear if they can investigate services
  • Hospital procedures will be paid for on a local or a national tariff (as brought in by the Labour Government under so-called “payment by results” – actually a payment for activity)
  • There are number of clauses requiring information to be shared or disclosed, including clinical information which could compromise patient confidentiality.
  • A greater role for the Care Quality Commission

The government is committed to patient choice, any willing provider policies, competitive tendering, and the Secretary of State will have the power to create regulations to ensure that these happen.

The Bill is Unnecessary

Andrew Lansley and David Cameron have said that the Bill is necessary because outcomes in the NHS are not as good as in some other countries. This is true of the outcome they picked out (death rates after a heart attack are lower in France than in any other European Country), but you can pick out many figures in international comparisons, and easily find others in which the UK performs better than France. In fact, on trends since 1979, the UK rate of death after a heart attack will fall below the French rate by 2012.

Overall, life expectancy at birth in the UK in 2007 was 79.5 years, similar to most European Countries and slightly above the OECD average of 79.1 years. European countries have health care systems which are called insurance based, but they are all compulsory and to a great extent underwritten by Governments, which makes them effectively funded by taxation. The OECD country which has the most developed market and least socialised system is the United States. It stands out from the other countries in having a below average life expectancy of 78.1 years, and spending over $9,000 per capita to achieve this in 2007 while most other OECD countries spent $2,000-4,000 per capita. The UK spent about $3,000 per capita.

No-one would argue that the NHS is perfect. However, there are many existing examples of good practice and successful projects, some of which have been touted by the reformers as arguments for the reforms. It must be remembered that these projects have all taken place under the present legislative framework. Passage of the Bill is not necessary.

The Reforms will be Expensive

In the context of the current economic recession, it has already been recognised that health expenditure would be a problem. NHS chief executive David Nicholson’s 2008/09 annual report says the health service should expect to have to make ‘unprecedented’ efficiency savings of £15bn to £20bn between 2011 and 2014. He writes: ‘This is so that we can deal with changing demographics, the implementation of the [NHS next stage review strategic health authority] regional visions and cost pressures in the system.’ This has become known as “The Nicholson Challenge”. It means that although the Coalition have promised not to cut NHS spending in real terms, because there will be more older people, and healthcare inflation is more than consumer or retail inflation, £20bn has to be saved over the next 3 years, from a budget of about £300 bn.

The DH estimates that the proposed reforms will cost £1.3bn to implement. Independent academics have estimated it could easily cost as much as £3bn. This is on top of the £20bn of the Nicholson Challenge. And, as noted in the introduction, the more marketised a system is, the higher the transaction costs become.

The Reforms are Risky

The whole process is very risky: changing all the structures at once means that there will be no safety net if one of them fails. Indeed, in the market the expectation is that some consortia and hospitals WILL fail. The presumption is that other consortia or hospitals (or private providers) will take over the failing bodies, or they will close. Where will patient choice be in all this? Or indeed, any patient rights?

There are very many unanswered questions about how the proposed new bodies will be constituted, exactly which body will have which duty, and where lines of accountability will lie. This is going to be a difficulty for staff and patients alike. When there are problems, and there always are problems in healthcare delivery, it is likely that no-one will be accountable.

The process of GP commissioning carries inherent conflicts of interest, since GPs will be commissioning services which overlap with the services that they themselves provide. For example, a diabetic may be cared for at the GP surgery, or may be referred to hospital. This is even before one considers the problems when GPs set up companies to provide services such as physiotherapy, or minor injuries (which is already happening); or if GPs are rewarded for saving money on prescribing or referral budgets.

The Reforms will be Ineffective.

The proposed changes have not been tested nor piloted. There is some evidence to indicate what might happen e.g. what happened with fundholding, as described in the introduction. There is evidence from health economists to show that competition on price reduces quality. This happens in other markets too: we do not generally go to the Poundshop if we want good quality goods. The Government have backed off a little, and said that there would only be two tariffs for hospital procedures (a local and a national tariff). However, it has been estimated that 70% of NHS activity is not covered by the tariff system.

The Government’s vision is “to modernise the NHS so that it is built around patients, led by health professionals and focused on delivering world-class healthcare outcomes”. This sounds fine, but there is no evidence that the proposed changes will achieve this. The BMA commissioned Ipsos MORI to do a survey in January 2011. 1,645 doctors participated in this. A majority thought that enactment of the Bill would lead to increased competition (88%), which will lead to fragmentation of services (89%), reduce the quality of patient care (65%) and will damage NHS values (66%). They also thought that the reforms would increase health inequalities (66%). These concerns, and many others, were also articulated at the BMA Special Representative Meeting on 15th March. Over 400 doctors, representing medical staff throughout the UK, voted for motions criticising every aspect of the Bill, and agreeing to campaign against it..

So, it comes down to whom you believe: Lansley says it will work, the majority of doctors say it will not. If you are concerned about any of the proposals as well, you can email our MP dowdj@parliament.uk at any time.

24 March 2011

Dacres Wood Nature Reserve and Field Centre Open Afternoon

Organised by Forest Hill Society and Friends Of Mayow Park
27TH MARCH 2011 from 1pm to 4pm

This small nature reserve has woodland and a meadow. A special feature of the site is the wetland area which is a remnant of the old Croydon Canal, bypassed when the railway was built.
Forest Hill Society and the Friends of Mayow Park are pleased to have arranged an open afternoon for the public, with history talks at the field centre, guided walks and activities for all the family.

Refreshments will be available

How to find the Dacres Wood Field Studies Centre and Nature Reserve:
Entry will be via the Field Centre which is near the junction of Dacres Road with Silverdale, between Homefield House and Catling Close. An unmarked driveway leads directly to the Field Centre from Dacres Road. Parking is available on Dacres Road and other nearby roads.

View Larger Map

Budget removes Planning Restrictions.

As well as the various tax changes announced by the Chancellor in yesterday's Budget, George Osborne also announced plans to radically change the planning system in 'The Plan for Growth'.

The Chancellor claimed that that the planning system had been consistently highlighted as "one of the most significant burdens" on economic growth and announced a consultation on proposals to allow changes of use, without the need to apply for planning permission, from classes B1, B2 and B8 (business, general industrial and storage) to class C3 (residential). This would allow developers to convert shops into flats without any coordinated town centre strategy.

He also said that while locals should have a greater say in planning matters, the government would be taking steps to prioritise growth and jobs. As a result, there will be new rules in favour of sustainable development with a presumption in favour of the applicant; targets for 60% of new homes to be built on brownfield or previously developed land will be removed; applications will be time limited and change of use between certain classes will be allowed.

This has been poorly received by various organisations.

Civic Voice director Tony Burton said “Effective planning is key to sustainable development and business needs the certainty and support it provides. The land for economic and housing development is already allocated and the planning permissions being given so the Government should be supporting good planning and not making it the whipping boy of our economic troubles.”

The Royal Town Planning Institute attacked the Budget's plans for ensuring that the default answer to development is 'yes', warning the measure will create an England of tin sheds and Legoland housing.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England labelled the Budget, ‘a massive threat to the environment’. The triple whammy of scrapping national brownfield targets, introducing a default yes to development, and pursuing half-baked proposals for land auctions could be devastating to treasured countryside. Neil Sinden, Director of Policy said “The proposed planning measures present a potentially devastating threat to the countryside and are unlikely to boost long-term economic growth. To suggest, as successive Governments have done, that planning is a key impediment to growth is just wrong. It is disappointing that George Osborne is repeating the mistaken assertions made by Gordon Brown.

“The planning system exists to prevent unsustainable, unwanted and environmentally damaging development. Today’s Budget is likely to undermine its ability to do this.

“Without national brownfield targets for housing we could have lost twice as much greenfield land to development over the last decade – equivalent to an area almost twice the size of Manchester. This move puts green fields unnecessarily in the path of the bulldozers.

“The Chancellor’s default ‘yes to development’ threatens both the environment and sound planning. ”

22 March 2011

Let's Get Snapping!

This year, for the first time, we are holding a digital photo competition. With its fabulous views and eclectic mix of old and new, there are sure to be some fantastic images to be found in Forest Hill. Go creative, get snapping!

We are delighted that the competition will be judged by Paul Murphy, local resident, Society member and winner of the ‘Rose Award for Photography’ Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2010. Paul is the second person ever to win this award.

There will be 12 winning photos selected which will then go on to form the Forest Hill Society Calendar 2012, which will be available for everyone to buy. Winners will be notified and presented with an award at the Forest Hill Society AGM in November.

Entrants can submit as many digital pictures as they like to our Flickr group

Every submission must be accompanied by an e-mail sent to alisa@foresthillsociety.com with your name, address, phone number and photo ID/name. The closing date is 15 October 2011 and the final 12 photos will be chosen on 30 October.
Please read the rules for copyright and privacy issues. Full competition rules can be found here on our website

The competition is only open to digital photographs. We hope to be able to accept printed images in the future.

Photo to the right: the view over London from the Hill, with thanks to Rob McIntosh

Cafe Society

We’ve been featuring some of SE23’s new coffee shops and, in this issue, we move further away from Forest Hill town centre to find out what makes the perfect coffee experience. This time we speak to Ben Morris from Hop Scotch in Honor Oak Park and Anna Marciniak at The Brothers, Dartmouth Road

Hop Scotch
Ben was asked about his coffee: “Good, balanced, middle-of-the-road beans (not too strong or weak but 'rich'), freshly ground coffee bean dispensed by knowledgeable, trained baristas on a classic manual / lever machine for maximum flavour, cream and perfect froth!”

The Brothers Cafe
Anna, who is introducing a touch of Eastern Europe to SE23, gave her views on cafe culture: “A great cafĂ© is a convivial place where people can sit and meet surrounded by friendly and helpful staff who are willing to bend over backwards for their customers.”

Great news for North Londoners!

The extension of the Overground from Dalston Junction to Highbury and Islington opened on 28 February, bringing even more North Londoners easy access to our hidden gems.

All Overground trains through Forest Hill now run the full length of the line. This will give more footie fans a far easier journey to see their South-East London teams play. It will also open up some great places for people to visit – Crystal Palace, The Horniman Museum and all the other lovely spots in our area!

Top soccer at the Crystal Palace

The May timetable will continue to include three late trains through Canada Water to New Cross Gate. These will connect with the last Southern services, to enable a late night return home.

The new route from Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction is expected to open late in 2012.

Rumour has it that this is also good news for South East Londoners! Happy travelling