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Secretary of State throws lifeline for Lubetkin

Bertholt Lubetkin’s ‘ground-breaking’ 1938 Finsbury Health Centre may not have to be sold off, following a decision by Health Secretary Alan Johnson

In January this year, Islington Primary Care Trust (PCT) came under fire after agreeing to put Lubetkin’s Grade-I listed masterpiece in north London on the market.

However following recommendations made by the secretary of state’s Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), Johnson urged the PCT to carry out a complete ‘reappraisal’ of ways to keep the building open and work with Islington Council on ‘a process involving local stakeholders’.

Johnson also asked the trust to ‘improve the clarity’ of the proposals for local residents and ‘reappraise options for future use of the Finsbury Health Centre, including consideration of charitable funding’.

The Campaign to Save Finsbury Health Centre (SaveFHC) said it was ‘disappointed’ that Johnson had not issued a clear directive to retain the Pine Street building for medical use but added: ’ We are pleased to hear the building might still have a future fulfilling its original use and that local involvement will have an impact on future decisions.’

Campaigners hope that the trust will now act on the announcement by meeting democratically elected councillors, conservation professionals and the Heritage of London Trust Operations to explore the option of using charitable grants to safeguard the Finsbury Health Centre and keep it providing the services for which it was designed. SaveFHC have submitted their own research to the IRP which higlights NHS Islington’s £5.8 million surplus this year, which they claim would ‘cover the estimated cost’ of the necessary refurbishments.

SaveFHC and local councillors have consistently argued on the basis of patient need as well as the building’s design and heritage value adding: ‘We will press for the issue to be returned to the IRP for a full public review.’

Meanwhile Helen Pettersen, NHS Islington’s chief operating officer said: ‘We welcome the IRP’s assessment and are already taking forward the recommendation that we continue to work closely with the local council to try and achieve local resolution. This will involve engaging local stakeholders in further discussions and exploring other options for the future of Finsbury Health Centre.

‘We are committed to ensuring that high quality and accessible primary care and community health services continue to be available to local people, as well as enabling more services to be transferred from hospital to community settings.’

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