What do Harlow candidates think about euthanasia?


Euthanasia has long been a heavily debated taboo topic, but how often do we hear what our local politicians think of the subject?

In the first political hustings debate Conservative candidate Robert Halfon, who is standing for a second term, said: “I believe that we are making very dangerous moves in our country towards legalised suicide and I am passionately against it. If there is one thing that would ever make me want to leave this country it is if we introduced euthanasia.”

In light of this, I thought it best to get a response from each of the seven candidates running for Harlow in the General Election.

The term euthanasia can be taken two ways. The first being assisted suicide, the second being to terminate the life of another. In this instance I will be referring to assisted suicide.

Murray Sackwild – Green: “In my opinion it’s a personal choice. If one makes a considered judgement that one’s quality of life is so poor and there is no chance of improvement, as long as one is not pressured by relatives, I believe that the state should not block a person from terminating their own existence and should offer facilities to support this.”

Eddy Butler – English Democrats: “I would not leave the country if euthanasia were legalised. I think this is not so much about suicide as assisted suicide. I am in two minds about assisted suicide. If legalised it could be open to abuse. But one can see compassionate grounds to sanction it also.”

Geoff Seeff – Lib Dems: If a person is fully compos mentis has made a properly validated living will that his or her life should be terminated in certain specific circumstances in order that they die with dignity, that would meet my criteria for freedom to choose. We have all seen relatives and friends suffer over an extended terminal illness and it is not what I would want for myself.”

Dave Brown – TUSC: “TUSC is a left wing alliance and there is no one ‘Party line’ on ethical issues such as euthanasia. In Government we would therefore submit to the majority after seeking their opinions. I believe that the best people to consult and respect in this area would be the individual suffering, their family and medical professionals.”

Suzy Stride – Labour: “I do not believe a bill has been before parliament that has provided re-assurance against the considerable risks involved with passing legislation that would legalise euthanasia. We have to be very careful that we do not end up with a situation where vulnerable people such as the elderly think that they are becoming a burden to their loved ones or to society and feel a form of pressure into euthanasia.”

Harlow UKIP spokesperson: “UKIP’s core principle is personal liberty and therefore this would be thought of as a conscience issue and not something that could be imposed by the party on it’s members. Any changes in the law in this area would have to be on a free vote or a referendum”

Robert Halfon clarified his stance by referring to a Commons debate in March 2012, when he said: “My worry is that whatever the intention of some, this [assisted suicide] will ratchet towards euthanasia. I feel that we need to move the focus of the discussion away from assisted dying and towards quality of life.”

Euthanasia is now legal in several countries: Netherlands, five US States, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. France also allows doctors to decide to “limit or stop any treatment that is not useful or has no other object than to artificially prolong life.”

All seven candidates standing for Harlow in the General Election have given their thoughts on this complex and often difficult issue. How will you vote now?

Harlow Elections 2015 – Who is running?

You will all know by now, hopefully, that the General Election 2015 falls on Thursday 7 May. Harlow has been classed by UK Polling Report as a “semi-marginal seat” – currently represented by Conservative MP Robert Halfon.

Here are a list of the SEVEN candidates for Harlow in the General Election next month, in alphabetical order…

Dave Brown: Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Dave says:
I am 54 and was born and raised in Harlow but now live in Epping. I have always worked in youth and community services, have also been a gardener and am currently working with adults with autism.
TUSC has been in existence since 2010, we are a coalition of workers, anti cuts campaigners, trade union members and Socialists who stand candidates in County council and Parliamentary elections.
I believe that it is time that ordinary people are listened to and that our needs take priority over rampant greed. Our coalition stands for: Nationalise the railway, public services and utilities – Scrap the bedroom tax – £10 hour living wage now – Public ownership of banks – NHS not for profit – Protect our environment – Protect the welfare state – No to Trident – Build council housing – Free education from nursery to university.

– Can’t fault those policies
– Born and raised in the area
– Where’s all that money going to come from?   Eddy Butler: English Democrats
Eddy Says:
I work as a researcher and have lived in Loughton for about ten years.
The main difference about the EDs is that we support the creation of an English Parliament. Otherwise quite similar to UKIP.
I would oppose moves to build more houses and make Harlow bigger – as I oppose building on the Green belt and making conditions overcrowded with too much pressure on infrastructure. I support innovation and extra emphasis placed on research and development.
As MP I would speak out on these issues – and warn of the creeping danger of Islamic extremism.
I would start by speaking our without fear of party whips and be an independent voice for Harlow. If elected everyone would hear about Harlow the next day.

– Seems to be fearless when it comes to whips
– Not afraid to say to what he thinks
– Says they are similar to UKIP
– Was also a member of BNP and National Front
– Likes to blame things on immigrants

Murray Sackwild: Green Party
Murray Says:
I’m 55 and have lived nearby in Ware and Hertford for for 14 years.
I worked at Mark Hall for 13 years and am currently Supply Teaching, mostly at Passmores Academy. I’ve also been General Secretary of Harlow and Epping Forest NUT for 8 years.
The issues Harlow faces are: Real jobs, real pay, support for PAH, local accountability of local schools, pressured small businesses, cost of local transport and protecting Harlow’s green spaces.
Green policies are an alternative policy to other parties who promote the same neoliberal pro-austerity agenda.
I would vote according to the wishes/needs of the people of Harlow – rather than being made to vote according to party whips and start with the promotion of Harlow. Build on Robert Halfon’s work here – but without all the nasty Tory stuff.

– Seems to have genuine good intentions for Harlow
– Works with NUT
– Doesn’t live in Harlow

Geoff Seeff: Liberal Democrats
Geoff Says:
I’m 67, live in Woodford, and work as a chartered accountant and management accountant. I have stood in several elections since 1982.
I think the Lib Dems are expected to do much better than the recent polls would indicate and I would like to see a renewal of the coalition government. I don’t think the Lib Dems will take power by themselves.
Harlow citizens deserve a choice and my colleagues in the local party feel that my experience offers something better.
Clearly the A&E department at the Princess Alexandra Hospital is facing problems but I would be pressing for the use of additional NHS funding to be directed towards preventative programmes that keep people out of hospital.
I know 9, mostly primary, schools in Harlow have access to a counselling service but I would like every school to have access to an in house counselling team.
To start with as MP I would get to know the organisations active in the constituency better.

-Clearly been involved in politics for decades

– His connection to Harlow is: “All Essex and East of England Liberal Democrats share information”
– Doesn’t believe his own party is capable of winning the election independently

Robert Halfon: Conservatives
Rob Says:
Over the last five years I have run a number of high-profile campaigns, including Petrol Promise, which called on Government to lower fuel duty and cut petrol and diesel costs.
I work hard within the community, supporting local charities and businesses, and have held regular MP Advice Surgeries to help residents.
Whenever we have faced problems in our town, whether it be illegal encampments or the possible closure of our respite centres, I have stood up against the authorities.

– Lives in Harlow
– Lowered fuel duty

– Has an appalling voting record, including voting against equal marriage and raising the min. wage
– Openly opposes euthanasia

Sam Stopplecamp: UKIP
Sam says: 
I am 42 and have lived in Harlow for 6 years and run a local community transport scheme.
I have been a member of UKIP for 3 years and we are different from other parties because we have common sense. I am standing to give the people of Harlow a true choice.
Harlow faces issues like: growth, good jobs and cost of the government.
As MP for Harlow I would bring stability and security for the future and start with an EU referendum.

– Lives in Harlow
– Not much to say for himself
– Missed out a few prominent issues that Harlow faces

Suzy Stride: Labour


Suzy says: I’m 33 and like most of the candidates I wasn’t born here, I grew up in the East End and now live in Old Harlow.
I work for a charity that works with unemployed young people, upskilling them and helping them find work.
I campaigned for Labour in the 1997 elections, I was 15 at that point, I formally joined the party in my late teens.
Labour is the only party that can deliver social justice and build a better country for working people.
If elected as MP I’d put all my energy into fighting for a better deal for Harlow. I’d push forward the projects we really need for the future; regeneration of the town centre, investment in the NHS and schools, an extra junction for the M11 and improvements to the local bus system. I’d bring something different to the role.
One of my first acts would be to vote through measures to increase the numbers of doctors and nurses in our local NHS, I’d also scrap the bedroom tax and increase access to GPs in Harlow. I would start in earnest to provide more facilities for young people and I’d work with Harlow Council on plans to regenerate the town.

– Lives locally in Old Harlow
– Works with young people
– Identifies and prioritises genuine local concerns
– Has a really stroppy Labour party councillor from St Albans replying to her emails
– Seems to be quite hard to get hold of

To watch the hustings in Harlow with all seven candidates, see the YourHarlow footage here.

REVIEW: Jekyll and Hyde by Sell a Door Theatre Company

IMG_4575Jekyll and Hyde, the play, is described by Sell a Door theatre company as a reinterpreted modern adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s cult classic novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The adaption is written by Jo Clifford, formerly John Clifford, who is a performer, teacher and well-respected playwright of around 80 plays.

Traditionally Jekyll and Hyde tells the story of one man split in two – respectable Dr. Jekyll transformed into the inexplicably cruel Mr. Hyde. This modern adaption is no different.

Dr. Jekyll is a high-profile cancer specialist close to a major breakthrough, with primal urges that he tries to fight. During his research, Jekyll creates an unintentional strain of a drug that has the capability to alter his personality and appearance, turning him into the abhorrent Mr. Hyde as he experiments on himself.

The play uses only 3 actors and an overused revolving stage that they turn themselves. The stage is dimly lit and eerily misty from the moment we take our seats.

Perhaps the most shocking element of the play is the vivid descriptions from Mr. Hyde, who loves to “hear the crunching of bones” as he stamps on his victims – men, women and children.

Nathan Ives-Moiba is an actor-come-contortionist, transforming himself from Jekyll to Hyde rather brilliantly by using his well-sculpted body as the most powerful prop – hunching, twisting and manipulating his way through some gruelling acts as Hyde. So much so that the steampunk accessories were out of place and unnecessary, much like the constant undressing and re-dressing.

Understated and smooth actor Lyle Barke, plays London lawyer and Jekyll’s long-suffering friend, Utterson. Though I found his relationship with Jekyll was annoyingly ambiguous.

Rowena Lennon is convincing and brilliant as Dr. Lanyon and Jekyll’s servant, though somewhat stretched in a multitude of other roles. As a servant she plays a victim of abuse, which Jekyll loves as it “keeps their esteem low”.

Jekyll’s desires are ultimately always the same as Hyde’s. The only thing that Jekyll wants is to distinguish between the two and split his conscience so that he can revel in evil without guilt. Much like Freud’s description of the human psyche – can the ego keep both the id and the superego in a state of equilibrium?

I won’t spoil the ending, but I think it’s safe to say that question is answered.

Jekyll and Hyde is coming to the end of the tour now, with the last performance on 27 March. For more info and tickets click here.

Bus driver polices roads of Harlow with a bike and camera

DaveS3A cyclist in Harlow has been recording footage of dangerous driving via a camera attached to his helmet, which is now used as police evidence.

Dave Sherry, from Katherines in Harlow, uses a camera that is attached to his bike and helmet on a daily basis to go to and from London, where he works as a bus driver.

This all began when Dave was hit by a car whilst out cycling. He said: “After a car hit my back wheel the police told me it was his word against mine so I decided to protect myself.”

To keep himself safe, Dave uses a Garmin GPS to log times, dates and locations of incidents, a truck horn and a personalised hi-viz. His bike is a Mekk 2G Carbon Fibre Racer/Rockhopper mountain bike.

The London bus driver said: “My family are fully supportive of me. They do worry, but no more than if I didn’t have the cameras.”

Dave, who has been cycling for 14 years, collaborates with police forces around the various areas he cycles, by handing over evidence of careless and dangerous driving to them.

One of the ways Dave names and shames dangerous drivers is via his YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/sueperbs.

Dave, 37, said: “The evidence can be and has been used in court. Only last week a woman was sent for a driver awareness course because of one of my videos.

“I believe the police think it is a positive thing and we have even been talking about going out for a cycle together.”

Talking about how other road users react to him, Dave said: “I am regularly in close calls with vehicles, but the most shocking time was when a van hit me and the driver got out and attacked me.

“Drivers can help cyclists by being aware of just how much damage their car can do. We all need to be more considerate and observant.”

If a cyclist, or anyone else, has similar evidence, they can report this to the casualty reductions section at Essex police, Roadsafe London at the Met police and http://www.policewitness.com.

REVIEW and Interview: Stonebird by Mike Revell

Stonebird, although aimed at a younger audience, has no age limit. I, at the ripe old age of 24, thoroughly lost myself in this stunning book.

I instantly warmed to Liam, a lonely 11-year-old boy whose grandma is being eaten from the inside out by a demon… dementia.

Despite being surrounded by family – mum, sister Jess and dog Daisy – Liam feels more alone than ever. Put into a new school with no friends, whilst it always seems to be wine o’clock for mum, Liam is struggling to come to terms with his new life and his grandma’s demon.

But when Liam finds his grandma’s diary, it soon becomes apparent that she has a magical, mysterious past and a protector in the form of Stonebird, a gargoyle.

Stonebird has protected Liam’s grandma since she was a girl, following her from Paris to Swanbury through the War. Now he has appeared in Liam’s life, but Stonebird cannot simply be controlled. Gargoyles are both wonderful and dangerous creatures.

As Liam struggles to keep a hold of things – Grandma’s demon, mum’s drinking, Jess’ moods, Matt the bully – Stonebird will change his life in ways that Liam can’t predict.

This novel is nothing short of magical and had me in tears – several times.

A must-read for both children and adults. Especially poignant for those affected by the heartbreaking conditions Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Keep an eye out for Mike Revell’s second book – with a little bit of real life and a little bit of magic!


Mike Revell
Mike Revell grew up in a village in Essex, close to Saffron Walden. He studied creative writing at the University of Essex then studied journalism at Harlow College.
Mike now lives in South Wales and, when not writing, he reports on the NFL for The Mirror newspaper.

What do you miss most about Essex?
Essex has played a big part in different stages of my life, and I miss it for different reasons.
I grew up around Saffron Walden and miss all the countryside around there.
I studied at the University of Essex and miss having so many friends close by, because a lot of the time it felt like having one giant holiday in Colchester!
I miss the train into Harlow, which always gave me chance to read, and seeing the friends I made at Harlow College every day.

What made you go from journalism to publishing your own book?
I’ve always wanted to be an author, so even while I was studying journalism I was scribbling book ideas in my notebook, then writing them up in lunch breaks or on the train or in cafes. Learning the craft of news writing helped my storytelling in a big way, because it’s all about finding the right words and writing concisely.

What are you reading at the moment?
I read a lot of children’s books, both because I like to see what’s out there, and I think the ideas in children’s and young adult fiction are often a lot more exciting than adult books.
I’m reading Phoenix by SF Said at the moment. It’s a rollicking sci-fi space adventure with gorgeous illustrations by Dave McKean.

Who, or what, gives you inspiration?
I find inspiration in so many places! Sometimes by reading other authors or watching movies, and other times just by going for a walk.
Seeing the world, the rolling hills on the horizon, the swoosh of passing cars, the rustle of trees can all spark ideas and send my mind wandering.
There’s a fantastic quote by Roald Dahl, where he says: “Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.”

You say you wanted to write about the importance of memories… what’s your fondest memory?
One of my favourite memories is from when I was three years old.
It was a good year, that one. I learned to tie my shoes and do up a tie. I collected all of the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, but best of all I learned how to ride my bike without stabilizers. I remember setting off down a hill with grubby knees and scuffed-up palms, and the thrill of realising I wasn’t just balancing… I was riding! I still remember how excited I was, bursting back into the house to tell my parents.

What did you find most difficult when writing Stonebird?
Probably the dementia scenes, with the grandma in her care home.
They’re all based on real life experiences I lived through with my own grandma.
I knew if I wanted to do the subject justice and treat it with honesty and respect, I would need to focus on the small things. The details of what it was like.

Other than writing, do you have any special talents?

I have double jointed thumbs and can make them dance in quite a sickeningly weird way.
I also love American football and have played it for about eight years, although not very much recently.

What’s your ultimate guilty pleasure?
The moment Taylor Swift comes on, whether it’s in the kitchen or at cheese night!

If I gave you a million pounds to donate, which charity would it go to and why?
The Alzheimer’s Society, because I’ve seen how horrible it is for people to deal with dementia, and know how it can affect the lives of everyone around it.

Any regrets?
I often wonder if I would change anything growing up, but then you never know how it might have affected the future.
Right now, I’m living my dream. I wouldn’t want to change anything about that.

Will there be a sequel? 
No sequel – but I’m busy working on a second book at the moment.
I can’t say much about it at, but it’s similar to Stonebird in that it’s got a little bit of real life and a little bit of magic!


Harlow Trades Union Council explain their support of illegal Traveller encampments

Since 8 October 2013 there have been 107 illegal encampments in Harlow.
This has sparked fury among residents, primarily regarding Travellers not paying council tax and rubbish being left behind at sites.

The costs of these encampments can be broken down:TUC
– Legal costs: £15,445
– Clean-up costs: £26,905
– Preventative work and protecting Harlow Council land: £28,443.96

Currently there are two families on four encampments:
– Elizabeth Way/Third Avenue (5 caravans)
– South Road (7 caravans)
– Edinburgh Way (3 caravans)
– Tendring Road (3 caravans)

On Thursday 12 February, I spoke to David Forman from Harlow TUC, who openly supports Travellers on these encampments in Harlow.

Why are you, as part of the TUC, supporting the Travellers?

Essentially because they’re being discriminated against and that unions defend equalities.

Trade unions defend civil liberties, they always have done. The civil liberties of Travellers are no different to yours or mine. The fact that they live in a caravan is irrelevant. Everyone has the right to a home, it’s a fundamental human right.


Harlow has the most plots in Essex, yet we have the most illegal encampments.

The Uttlesford site does not have a single Traveller living on it, because Essex County Council have just allowed people with a caravan, people who are poor basically and have nowhere else to live, on that site.

They’re supposed to go to Travellers but it’s down to the council.


Why do you think Travellers get such bad press?

A lot of it is ancient discrimination, it goes back hundreds of years.

A lot of the real, nasty accusations directed at Travellers actually emanates from the Nazis, who characterised them as asocials and criminals.

With an economy based on the exploitation of labour by minority, there’s an invested interest in dividing up the masses.

Pitch worker against worker in order to divert attention from an economic system that can’t provide for everyone and divide workers by suggesting it’s down to influx of migrants or it’s the actions of Travellers and Gypsies.

“The Travellers themselves like their own community and the settled community like their own.”

What do you think we need to do, specifically in Harlow, for the Travellers because at the moment all of the encampments are unlawful?

It’s a county problem. Essex County Council owns the sites and the county council has to run those sites and maintain them, or not maintain them in the case of Harlow.

There are five councils in Essex that haven’t provided a single Travellers site. Southend, Rochford, Brentwood, Castlepoint and Tendring. They have broken the law for 26 years.

They have a statutory, legal duty to provide sites and at least 15 pitches. That’s the legal requirement that they refuse to obey. So if there’s anybody law breaking, it’s five Conservative councillors in Essex.

80% of Traveller applications are rejected, as opposed to 20% for the likes of the settled community.

It’s a totally biased system that’s designed to discriminate against them and prevent them having homes.


What about the rubbish left behind? There have also been reports of human faeces and verbal abuse.

The Travellers are subjected to unsubstantiated allegations, which means that people phone the police, make a complaint but when the police arrive they refuse to give a written statement. Or when they do they’re unable to identify the alleged guilty parties.


Harlow Council alone have received 449 complaints since October 2013.

I don’t doubt it.

Where Travellers look to get planning permission, there has been a coordinated campaign against them, often involving councillors. In this case Conservative councillors.

They have failed provide sites in other councils and have failed, as a party, and Robert Halfon has failed, to condemn Essex County Council for not providing sites in years gone boy.


Travellers don’t appear to want to integrate with the wider community. Will they do so if they are given planning permission?

This idea that they integrate is another fascist ideal that everyone’s got to be uniform and live up to the ideals and values of the state.

The state says they need to integrate, what that means is they should live in a house. They don’t want to live in a house.


Travellers on illegal encampments don’t want to pay tax because they argue that they don’t use the services that the tax provides.

They do pay tax in council provided sites. They pay council tax and rent for each pitch. Plus they pay for water.


The Travellers on the illegal encampments don’t pay tax.

No, but many of them have business where they’re registered for tax purposes because they’re landscaping, motorway works etc. You’ve seen the sign written vans so they’ve got to pay tax, they can’t avoid it.

They use a registered office, mail drops and all mail drops have to be registered with special branch so the idea that they can escape is nonsense.


Going back to my earlier point about the rubbish and human faeces left behind..

They bag up their rubbish, and I’ve seen them bag it up. There’s foxes, there’s rats, there’s cats. The rubbish will be strewn everywhere.


Should the rubbish be left there in the first place? Why not take it to Harlow Recycling Centre?

The Travellers told us that they had been prevented from entering the waste recycling and I have also been prevented from entering the waste recycling when I had a sign written van.

They let you in once, then if you come back they challenge you and you have to fill out a form stating that the materials are domestic waste.


Travellers are being prevented from using Harlow Recycling Centre, why?

Because there is racism in society. The fact is that the people who work at the dump are no different to anyone else. Amongst them they have attitude problems and they have been told by them and bin men that you are not using our facilities because you don’t pay council tax. That was the attitude of the people there.

Despite the fact that the council Traveller and Gypsy Liaison Officer brought this up, so did my wife (Waida Forman, Labour councillor), to the council and the staff at the recycling centre were instructed not to impede their access. The fact is that they have continued to complain that they are.

The bags are put out so they get split up by cats, foxes and dogs. Sometimes the council provide a big trade waste wheelie bin and all the waste was out in there and they filled it up. In general, where they’ve got facilities to dispose of their rubbish they will.

It’s the bloody minded attitude of we won’t give you a bin and then castigate them for not dealing with their rubbish.


In your opinion, do we need more permanent plots in Harlow?

We need more plots across the county. We need the existing plots in Harlow brought back up to a usable condition.

The bulk of these sites were built prior to 1994. Harlow’s were 1991. Traveller population increased like the rest of the population. To somehow say that because we built 44 sites 25 years ago we can wash our hands of it and say that’s everything’s hunky dory when it’s not.


Have the Travellers made requests to Essex County Council themselves?

They have made requests to Essex County Council and to Eric Pickles.

They appeared at the meeting with the Police and Crime Commissioner where they said that they just want the land that they’ve paid for that they’re being prevented from using by a prejudice, discriminating, racist Conservative Councillor in Epping.

They’ve used every planning trick in the planning book to prevent Travellers having access to what they call green belt land, yet they are happy to have extensions to do privately owned, commercial caravan sites in Theydon Bois. Which makes them loads of money.


Have you heard about the 14 March protest against the Travellers?

I haven’t heard about it, no.


Do you think there will be a reaction to this from the Travellers?

No, not if it’s well away from them. The Travellers will just let them get on with it.

What’s building in this town is a vigilante group and many of my colleagues are fearful that we’ll return to the bad old days where people were throwing petrol bombs at the caravans.

The facts are that Robert Halfon is completely two-faced on this issue. He talked about the Human Rights Act when he planted a tree for Holocaust Memorial Day. The Human Rights Act came out of the Holocaust as a direct consequence of it, yet he talks about scrapping that act.

He says: “the so-called rights of Travellers”. There’s nothing so-called about them, they have the same rights as you and I.

What he’s suggesting, and what people who are involved in his campaign are suggesting, is that people who live in houses have more rights than people who live in caravans.

When I went to Harlow Synagogue for Holocaust Memorial Day, people there expressed to me their deep unease about Robert Halfon’s campaign. They said he was stirring up sentiments that had only been seen in the 1930s.


Do you think this will result in physical attacks soon?

It’s heading that way because no-one is sticking up for the rights of Travellers.


What government will be better for Travellers?

The Labour party certainly aren’t proposing any improvements. In fact the trades council’s members and Unite Against Fascism lambasted Harlow Labour Party for putting out leaflets in March that called for tougher government action. We said no. Provide the sites. When they’ve got the sites they need then if they then create a nuisance, by all means take tough action.

The best government for Travellers is a Green government. Their policies for Travellers are really good. They are what we would describe as living up to the ideals of the Equality Act.

We’ve got a Labour party that is trying to out-UKIP, UKIP basically. I describe them as a thoroughly despicable party that masquerades as a party of the working class and yet will do the bidding of the ruling class at the drop of a hat. They talk left and vote right.

Healthcare improving for Harlow but many still disappointed with standards at PAH


Monday 2 February saw the second of the My health My future My Say events by West Essex CCG. Presenting the feedback event was Clare Morris, Chief Officer of West Essex CCG and Dr Rob Gerlis, chair of West Essex CCG.

During the first feedback event, Harlow residents said they wanted:

  • Better access to GP services
  • Minor illnesses to be a greater priority within GP surgeries
  • The skills to manage their own health
  • Care and health services to work together
  • People to be treated with respect and dignity at all times
  • Equal emphasis to be put on mental health that is placed on physical health

The Chief Officer made specific points about improvements for Harlow, saying that the focus for the town is on early years, children and families. There will also be support for improving wellbeing, mental health and substance abuse.

The changes are:

  • In collaboration with Essex County Council, the CCG grant-funded voluntary organisations with £448,000. These organisations offer support to people to help them maintain or regain independence
  • Working with social care to improve discharge services
  • Talking therapies are offered to children and young people, with Skype appointments available
  • Volunteers are supporting people in surgeries to help with non-medical and social needs
  • All primary schools will receive minor illness booklets
  • Improving how children are seen and treated in A&E
  • Paid for an additional children’s nurse at PAH to help parents care for sick children themselves
  • Promotion of NHS 111
  • 5,600 more appointments have been made available through winter
  • Home to Assess service has been launched – decisions on long term care needs are made in an appropriate setting, not hospital
  • As a trial, mental health nurses will be assisting police patrols so those in crisis get appropriate care.

The question and answer session heard complaints from Harlow residents about the inability to get appointments with GPs. Numerous complaints were also made about Princess Alexandra Hospital, primarily about waiting times and the lack of respect and dignity that is shown to patients – a point made in the first feedback event. Marc Davis, Director of Pathways and Partnerships, responded to these complaints by saying that common courtesy is sometimes sacrificed for time and they are putting: “time and effort into training staff on how they should behave”.

Princess Alexandra Hospital will be holding the patient panel’s second annual conference Your Voice Matters at Harlow Leisurezone on Friday 27 February, 11am – 4pm. You can register here