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MP in bid for Commons debate on Island Health Trust’s NHS funding

PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:54 25 September 2017

Island Health clinic in East Ferry Road, Isle of Dogs. Picture: Google

Island Health clinic in East Ferry Road, Isle of Dogs. Picture: Google

Google

Moves have been made for a Parliamentary debate over the controversial funding of east London’s Island Health clinic where the chair of the charity that owns the building has been paid £180,000 “consultancy fees” from NHS funds.

MP Jim Fitzpatrick... MP Jim Fitzpatrick... "Charities Commission has role to protect public money and property." Picture: Mike Brooke

MP Jim Fitzpatrick has written to ministers and has now met the Charities Commission over the £1.3 million assets that the Isle of Dogs charity has built up while a doctors’ surgery has been forced to give up space on the first floor because of rocketing service charges.

“I have put in for a Commons adjournment debate to discuss Island Health Trust with the Health Secretary at the dispatch box,” the Poplar and Limehouse MP told a public meeting.

“The Health Department and Charities Commission both have a role to protect public money and property which doesn’t appear to be handled appropriately.

“The Charities Commission said it would reopen the examination of what’s happening at Island Health.”

Packed protest meeting at Millwall's St John's centre about Island Health Trust. Picture: Mike BrookePacked protest meeting at Millwall's St John's centre about Island Health Trust. Picture: Mike Brooke

The trust, which owns the premises in East Ferry Road, next to the Asda store, has already been referred to the charity regulators and to Tower Hamlets council’s legal department which wants to “restore local accountability”.

Concerns were raised about Island Health Trust in the MP’s discussions with the regulators. A Charities Commission spokesman said: “We are currently engaging with the trustees to assess if regulatory action is required. But this is not a formal inquiry.”

More than 100 protesters turned up at last week’s public meeting at Millwall’s St John’s community centre, where GP practice head Dr Jo Richardson demanded “a change of chair and trustees”.

She told the meeting: “We were forced to vacate the first floor because of the unaffordable service charge, a consequence of the commercial and hard-nosed approach the trust was taking towards the doctors. We just couldn’t afford it.”

MP Jim Fitzpatrick... call for Commons debate on Island Health Trust. Picture: Mike BrookeMP Jim Fitzpatrick... call for Commons debate on Island Health Trust. Picture: Mike Brooke

Condemnation has come from both Labour and Tories who represent the Isle of Dogs on the council.

Labour’s Dave Chesterton, who chaired the Millwall public meeting, told the East London Advertiser: “Island Health is a public asset paid for with public money, along with all the NHS money now paid to the trust. So their £250,000 yearly revenue is public money.”

Conservative Cllr Peter Golds, who was at the public meeting, said afterwards: “We want a full Charities Commission investigation. It’s extraordinary that the bulk of the money is paid to a company of which the charity’s chair is the principal shareholder and sole beneficiary.”

A petition about the way the trust is run was sent to Tower Hamlets Council in January by pensioner Doris Penn, 83, founder member of the original trustee board for 22 years until local members were replaced last year.

Cllr Dave Chesterton addresses protest meeting over Island Health Trust. Picture: Mike BrookeCllr Dave Chesterton addresses protest meeting over Island Health Trust. Picture: Mike Brooke

The premises were paid for with public funds by the Docklands Development Corporation and the council in the 1980s, when the trust was set up “to hold the assets for the public”.

But now NHS services are being priced out, including Schools’ Nurses, health visitors and district nurses, while the trust has accumulated £1.3 million reserves.

The trust was aware allegations were “once again” raised at the public meeting and claimed they were “unfounded”.

A statement to the Advertiser from the trust said: “We strongly refute the allegations. At all times the trust has operated within its charitable objectives.

“We are firmly committed to open and constructive dialogue with everyone—but it is disappointing that a section of our community continues to seek to frustrate this process.”

Public accounts showed £179,176 consultation fee paid in 2014/15 to the trustee chair’s wholly-owned company, Suzanne Goodband Solutions, set up in March, 2010 as a management consultancy private limited company based in Northamptonshire. Its sole listed director is Suzanne Rose Goodband.

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