Row over new Saddleworth health centre

A POLITICAL row has broken out over a ‘desperately needed’ health centre for Saddleworth – even though different sides agree one is needed.

Conservative councillors Max Woodvine and Graham Sheldon called for Oldham Council to press ahead with plans to give the area a new facility, with the old Saddleworth School site suggested.

But even though they agree one should be put in, the ruling Labour administration put forward amendments, which were not agreed on.

That has led to more bickering between opposite sides.

The Saddleworth Tories’ motion states: “The Civil Parish of Saddleworth is the only district in the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham to have not had the provision of a health centre planned for despite the overwhelming public support for one.

“While the current Centre, situated in Uppermill, has given care to many people over the years, the modern medical needs of the population of Saddleworth are not met by the current site.

Cllr Max Woodvine

“Increased pressure is being placed on the already stretched healthcare provisions in Saddleworth resulting from the increased house building, including the 78 dwellings on Huddersfield Road, Diggle, with the prospect of more developments to come at Knowls Lane, Birks Quarry, Bailey Mill, Fletcher’s Mill and possibly Stonebreaks in years to come.

“A strategic site has opened up in a central, accessible location in Uppermill with the demolition of Saddleworth School and this is in the ownership of the council.”

Cllr Sheldon added to the meeting of Oldham Council on Wednesday, September 6: “The need for a health centre in Saddleworth is unfortunately long overdue.

“Our residents are having to travel significant distances for routine and basic treatments.”

Cllr Woodvine continued: “Our calls for a health centre have fallen on deaf ears countless times, despite the overwhelming public support in Saddleworth.

“I don’t believe resources are a stumbling block and in having our own health centre, I hope it would alleviate pressure from central Oldham services.

“Our request is simple. Please put a health centre for Saddleworth at the top of the priority list.”

Labour, however, submitted a number of amendments, which Cllr Sheldon suggested were a ‘damage limitation exercise, passing the buck and attempting to absolve the blame from both themselves and the MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth as to why there’s been no movement on this.’

Cllrs Garth Harkness and Helen Bishop

Councillor Barbara Brownridge, the cabinet member for health and social care, admitted they did not disagree with the basis of the motion.

However, she said their amendments wanted to make clear Oldham Council and MP Debbie Abrahams have no direct influence, insisting it is a matter for the National Health Service.

She said at the meeting: “We think its unwise to sterilise land for something that’s not been timetabled or agreed but we fully accept the principle there’s a new health centre needed in Saddleworth.”

Liberal Democrat Garth Harkness backed the original call, insisting he had made it a number of times previously.

He said: “We’ve been campaigning for a new health centre for about eight years and we continue to do so.

“A new health centre is needed and access to more services is needed but it won’t address the chronic shortage of GPs available, the blame here firmly lies with the Conservative Government.”

Colleague Cllr Helen Bishop added: “This is something all Saddleworth councillors agree on, regardless of political affiliation. It’s the right thing to do for our residents.”

And Cllr Woodvine added about the amendment: “True to form, the administration has resigned all responsibility.

“Once again, the Labour Party is putting their own self-importance first and the people of Saddleworth last.”

However, leader of Oldham Council, Cllr Arooj Shah, pointed out: “We do support a new heath centre in Saddleworth but it’s not our decision and that’s where the issue lies.”

And after the Conservatives voted against the amendment, which was carried, and the subesquently amended motion, Cllr Brownridge insisted it is not down to Oldham Council, saying: “Saddleworth needs a new health centre and Oldham’s Labour council has been, and continues to be, committed to working with the NHS to deliver it.

“But providing NHS services is an NHS responsibility. The council can, and will, work closely with NHS colleagues to make sure all areas of Oldham, including Saddleworth have the health services residents need.

“Good health care is about more than buildings – the Government needs to make sure the NHS has the resources it needs to employ the nurses, doctors and other staff to provide care.

“I welcome Councillor Woodvine’s admission that no-one minds where a health centre is built in Saddleworth as long as residents can easily get there, and I can assure him that the council is looking at all the options to be able to help should the NHS come up with a clear proposal for a building in Saddleworth.

“I was astonished that the Oldham Tories, including Saddleworth Councillors, then voted against what was, in effect, their own motion. A party in shambles at Westminster and Oldham.”

5 Replies to “Row over new Saddleworth health centre”

  1. At the last local election the other parties only needed to gain 2 seats to finally break the Labour Group’s stranglehold hold on Oldham Council once and for all.

    They were never going to have a better chance of doing it.

    That moment has now passed and with it the opportunity, I doubt it will come again.

    Everything else is just hot air.

  2. A new health centre is definitely needed, but is totally academic in the face of the dearth of potential staff. This is the result of relentless attempts to ~”kerb the strangle hold of the NHS” & shamelessly encourage privatisation of health care????

    1. I was recently sent to the new testing center at Salmon Fields for an NMRI scan , which other than it being sited in the middle of nowhere with no bus service I can’t really fault.

      The staff there were competent, considerate and professional and there we no problems at all.

      But the privatization of the NHS is process that’s has been going on at least since Blair’s Pubic Finance Initiatives and his Public Private Partnerships which have left the NHS so fragmented and so unaccountable, (read The Francis Report,) that it’s hard to see how it can be addressed in current political climate.

  3. If it is built on the school site the car park would have problems due to visitors to Uppermill. This would make it impossible for patients. It would have to be severely restricted

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