Thurrock – bit part player in a wider plan: A personal view

by ANDY LEVER – former Thurrock Gazette editor and Communications officer with Thurrock PCT and Thurrock Council

AROUND 24 years ago I was one of hundreds of people who attended a public meeting regarding the future of Orsett Hospital at the Civic Hall, Blackshots.

Among that throng were politicians of all hues, united in the fight to keep the borough’s hospital – later MP Andrew Mackinlay presented parliament with a 40,000 Thurrock-signature petition asking for continued investment in the site.

Last night (Wednesday, 24 January) there was another meeting about the future of what’s left of the hospital, with “experts” and officials again trying to assure the no more than 40-odd residents there the proposals would be the best way forward; though of course it was a “consultation”.

Unfortunately, there were no MPs present. There were no councillors from the two largest parties on the council in the room. There were no party leaders at all; no care portfolio holder, and no health overview committee chair in the hall.

To be fair, there were some politicians present, and two who, I believe, were at that meeting so many years ago, and at least two senior council officers.

We all heard the “experts” repeat the claim from a quarter of a century ago that because hospital stays were reducing fewer beds were needed, yet they also admitted there was a shortage of hospital beds recognised in their plans.

They described the “road infrastructure” of Essex as fantastic – and without irony!

The chair of the organisation running the meeting – Anita Donnelly – admitted to the editor of this paper she was “just beginning to realise how big Thurrock is”, immediately after being introduced to Mr Speight.

A colleague of hers later claimed one of the planned health hubs was to be in “Corrington” and that Essex had a “fantastic” road network!

The experts said it was wrong to invest in what remains of Orsett Hospital because it is too old; yet claimed creating a minor injuries unit at the even older Thurrock Hospital in Long Lane, Grays was the way forward.

And, perhaps worst of all, they constantly referred to Basildon as “our” hospital.

Once again, health experts showed they have no knowledge of Thurrock, its people, or its needs, and considering the meeting was in Thurrock and aimed at Thurrock people, their lack of knowledge was little short of insulting to those few who turned up.

And one expert was (probably accidentally) disparaging to current staff at the three hospitals and suggested the quality of care there could be better too. She said the hospitals did face some staffing issues, especially competing with “the high class of care” provided by “the lights of London or Addenbrooke’s”, suggesting clinicians and nurses might wish to work at hospitals with a “high class of care”.