UCLU Officers write to Rex Knight as petition passes three thousand milestone

After writing to all UCL departments earlier this week, we have see a huge surge in signatures to the petition to save the UCL Health Centre. At the time of writing, 3,156 concerned people have signed, with many leaving impassioned responses. Today, all six UCLU Full-Time Officers wrote the letter below to Rex Knight, Vice-Provost (Operations) to make clear that this campaign has not gone away, that the issue is deeply and widely felt across the university, and that we must see some action soon. Find out what action you can take here.

 

Dear Rex

We write to you regarding the proposed relocation of the UCL Health Centre.

The Provost, in his letter to us of 25/01/2013, reiterated UCL’s commitment ‘to maintaining the provision of a high quality medical service to students.’ You and Andrew Grainger have confirmed this in person on several occasions. However, four months have now passed since we first wrote to the university to express our concerns;.

The UCLU petition, which has now been signed by over 3,100 people, states the following:

We, the undersigned, demand that UCL retain a university-centred Health Centre for students and staff, and that this health centre:
• has the same or greater level of provision as the current health centre
• is on the UCL Bloomsbury Campus, and
• is included in UCL’s Bloomsbury Masterplan, perhaps in the proposed ‘Student Centre’

We also demand that, until a long-term solution is reached, the leases of the GPP and The Dental Centre be extended to ensure no break in the continuity of care.

We write therefore to ask whether there has been any development in finding such a location for the Health Centre, and urge UCL to act quickly to reassure the UCL Community.

At our meeting with UCL Estates on 18/02, Andrew Grainger would not make a commitment to extend the lease if no solution is found by July 2014, suggesting that this could be used to deliberately prolong the process. This does not display the collegiate outlook we would expect regarding an issue of this importance. Students, staff and the UCL Health Centre do not want uncertainty to continue any longer than necessary; however, it is clear that the UCL Community does want a solution that incorporates the UCL Health Centre in the vicinity of UCL, and this may take some time.

We have acted in good faith and run this campaign to canvass the UCL community for support. We, and the student body, are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with what seems to be a lack of action on the very serious matter of student welfare.

We will finish with two comments left at the petition by members of the UCL community:

“UCL is renowned for its excellent pastoral care. Don’t let this excellence slide.

The UCL Health Centre has been a complete life-line to me at university. Unlike other doctors surgeries the staff there are understanding of the specific challenges faced by students and provide an excellent service to the student community. The good links between the Health service the other UCLU services and the University has meant thatI’ve been able to access the right services quickly, and as a result have been amazingly supported in the continuation of my studies, despite serious illness.

Without such an efficient well-connected system there is no doubt people in need will fall through the net and suffer the consequences of not having the right support.

Please don’t let us down.”

—–

“As an ex-Head of Department and longtime member of UCL Faculty, I cannot envisage UCL or any other good University without an on-campus student medical facility. It is an essential component of the University care for its students. Its omission from the “Masterplan” is a travesty and betokens a lack of understanding regarding UCL’s function.”

We look forward to your response,

Edwin Clifford-Coupe, Education & Campaigns Officer

Dante Micheaux, Medical & Postgraduate Students’ Officer

Candy Ashmore-Harris, Welfare & International Officer

Natasha Gorodnitski, Ethics, Environment & Operations Officer

Samuel Gaus, Democracy & Communications Officer

Abdul-Ahad Akbari, Student Activities Officer

 

Gower Place Practice doctors send us a statement

Today, the doctors at the Gower Place Practice sent us this statement. In i they talk about why they know that a health centre on campus is so important to the UCL community, and give a thank you to everyone who has signed the petition so far and helped to take action to save the UCL Health Centre.

Save Health Centre Campaign covered by Pi!

Last week, Pi Media and PiTV covered the Health Centre campaign with an article online and an interview with Edwin Clifford-Coupe, UCLU Education & Campaigns Officer.

The article raises several important points. The importance to international students, who don’t have to ‘get to grips with [the complexities of] the NHS… in a foreign country’ before being able to access quality healthcare, is clear. Furthermore, the large catchment area of the Gower Place Practice means that students don’t have to deal with the stress associated with having to ‘locate and register with a new surgery’ every time they move house.

As Edwin says, at the moment we’re definitely at the petition-signing/letter-writing phase, and hopefully there won’t be any need to go as far as occupying the Health Centre – but the campaign is clear that adequate student-focused healthcare on campus is a necessity and we are willing to fight for it! To keep up to date, read here and watch this space.

(Obviously, PiTV meant Gower Place Practice.)

February Campaign update

Last week, the UCLU Full Time Officers (FTOs) had two meetings with senior figures at the university in which we discussed the Health Centre Campaign. On both occasions Andrew Grainger, the Director of Estates, reaffirmed UCL management’s commitment to maintain a student-focused Health Centre on or near the UCL campus. This is good; also positive is that the Provost Malcolm Grant and other Senior Management Team (SMT) members are meeting with the partners (i.e. the doctors) of the Gower Place Practice (GPP) last week.

However, some things that have been said by Andrew Grainger and other senior figures make us wary that at the top of UCL this issue is not being taken as seriously as it demands. Grainger reiterated that Estates has proposed two alternative premises for the GPP to be rehoused in. But we know that the GPP partners, who are after all the experts here, believe that one of these options is not viable (as it cannot be converted to meet the necessary standards for disabled access), and the other option is unfeasible in its current form. We may need to see significant work, and potentially financial contributions from UCL to make it feasible.

This is part of a wider point: from a student welfare perspective, UCL management must take the lead in solving this crisis. For the ‘Masterplan’ of a ‘global university’ like to UCL to not include provision of healthcare for students is astonishing. It is the responsibility of the university to assure the welfare of the students. This may mean extending the GPP’s lease after it expires in July 2014, and certainly means maintaining the same partners to assure continuity of healthcare for students. After all, the current doctors are experts in student health.

We are not seeing UCL management taking this responsibility seriously. Andrew Grainger has intimated that students could look for healthcare in their local area instead of having it on campus; at a meeting in January, Malcolm Grant expressed surprise that UCL and UCLU recommend incoming students register with the doctors’ surgery on their own campus! More worryingly still, Andrew Grainger has said that if a solution cannot be reached with the current GPP partners, “some alternative may need to be found”, potentially wrecking UCL students’ continuity of care. We have had no commitment on extending the lease past 2014 in the event of a failed resolution; Rex Knight (Vice-Provost Operations), Andrew Grainger and Malcolm Grant all had nothing to say to our request to include the UCL Health Centre in the Bloomsbury Masterplan.

Please continue to sign the petition to Save the UCL Health Centre – the strength of support so far has been amazing, and we’re making waves.

 

Edwin Clifford-Coupe – Education & Campaigns Officer

Petition reaches 1,000 signatures as Union Officers prepare to meet management

Amazing: we JUST reached 1,000 signatures on the petition to save the Health Centre! This clearly shows the strength of feeling amongst the UCL community about the importance not only of having a student-focused health centre, but of having it here on the UCL campus.

The UCL Union Full Time Officers have a series of meetings with UCL Senior Management this week – this puts the campaign in a great fighting position!

Keep spreading the petition to anyone in the UCL community – staff, students, alumnae, family, everyone.

Petition reaches 400 signatures in 4 days!

In an amazing show of support for the campaign, we’ve reached 400 signatures on the petition already! Keep spreading it to other members of the UCL community by email, Facebook and Twitter:

The UCL Health Centre is under threat: mgmt are not planning to renew its lease. Sign the petition to save it here: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/save-the-ucl-health-centre

Closure of Health Centre mentioned in Cheese Grater magazine

The potential closure of the UCL Health Centre earned pride of place in this month’s issue of the Cheese Grater magazine, as part of a cutting critique of the UCL Bloomsbury Masterplan. You can read the article here, on page one. The article makes the compelling point that UCL Estates  are keeping as much as they can about the Masterplan behind closed doors – the process needs to be open and accessible so that the UCL community, the staff and students, have control over their university. The idea of closing the university’s Health Centre shows just how out of touch UCL Estates is.

Save Health Centre petition launched!

Today UCLU launched the petition to save the Health Centre. The petition is aimed solely at the UCL Community, to show our strength of feeling. You can sign it here.

The full text of the petition is:

The UCL Health Centre, which contains the Gower Place Practice (GPP) doctors’ surgery and The Dental Centre, serves the medical needs of the UCL Community. Because the GPP has a larger than normal catchment area, stretching from Kensington to Finsbury Park to Shoreditch, many students can remain registered there for their whole time at university. About 80% of GPP’s registered patients are UCL students. There are many UCL staff among the remaining 20% of patients. The Health Centre specializes in the medical care of students, and has well-established links to the UCL Student Psychological Services and Disability services. The GPP is of particular importance to International students: 65% of the new registrations in October 2012 were students from abroad.

In this context, the decision by the management of University College London (‘London’s Global University’) to not renew the GPP’s lease after 2014 seems surprising. The building was donated to UCL in 1972 to specifically house a Student Health Centre. If UCL has other plans for the building, it should find an alternative within the UCL campus.

To the UCL Provost and Senior Management Team,

We, the undersigned, demand that UCL retain a university-centred Health Centre for students and staff, and that this health centre:
• has the same or greater level of provision as the current health centre
• is on the UCL Bloomsbury Campus, and
• is included in UCL’s Bloomsbury Masterplan, perhaps in the proposed ‘Student Centre’

We also demand that, until a long-term solution is reached, the leases of the GPP and The Dental Centre be extended to ensure no break in the continuity of care.

UCL Provost Malcolm Grant replies to our letter

Today the UCLU Full Time Officers received the response below to our letter to the Provost of 10 January. It is good to see UCL Management issuing their commitment ‘to maintaining the provision of a high quality medical service to students.‘ However, this now needs to translate into action, and UCL Estates need to get round the negotiating table and try and work out a solution with the Health Centre. Students cannot be left in the lurch in 2014. Sign the petition to raise the pressure!

From the President and Provost
Professor Malcolm Grant CBE MA LLD

Dear Candy, Edwin and Dante

Thank you for your letter of 10 January about the Gower Place Practice. As I emphasised when we met, I completely agree with you that there are many advantages in having a strong relationship with a GP practice which can then tailor its services to the needs of the University community. I am happy to reassure you that there is no intention of ending that relationship.

As you know, UCL’s continued success as an institution presents us with major challenges in ensuring that the estate, with all the constraints of a central London location, is responsive to our needs and not a brake on development. One of our masterplan objectives is to enable us to consolidate and enhance facilities for staff and students in Mathematics and Physical Sciences, and as part of that process the current Gower Place premises have been identified as the future location of a centre for postgraduate research students in that Faculty. This will provide much-needed working space for a growing research student population, and enable us to co-locate groups of students who will benefit from the opportunity to interact with their peers.

Having identified that we needed to relocate the existing activities in that building, it became clear that it would be difficult to provide an alternative location which met the needs of the Practice within UCL’s estate. We have, therefore, advised the Practice that we would work with them to identify suitable alternative premises. The decision about alternatives has to rest, of course, with the Practice and its NHS funders. We are quite clear, however, that the new location must be in very close proximity to the campus, so that existing relationships can be maintained. A suitable alternative location has yet to be identified but I remain confident that it will be possible to do so.

I hope that this is helpful and I reiterate our commitment to maintaining the provision of a high quality medical service to students.