Gazette letters: Autumn in Hackney, praise for press and NHS insecurities

Autumn feels longer this year, writes Will McCallum, Hackney Wick.

The light is gorgeous and we have just had that perfect couple of weeks when you can watch the sun rise as you eat breakfast and then see it set over dinner.

It is impossible to write anything on nature in autumn without mentioning the colour of the leaves. The scene remains nature’s greatest cliché. I don’t think I am alone in noticing a special brilliance this year. London Fields really takes top prize for its stunning array of yellows and deep oranges. Each day on my cycle ride through the park, the patches of colour across the cherry trees towards the south of the park grow bigger.

My favourite, though, is yet to come. There is a dawn redwood in the southern section of the New River walk, alongside Douglas Road. Its feathered leaves turn a light orange, beginning at their extremities and over a few days the colour spreads inwards towards the midrib.

Perhaps that is it – the reason why so many writers choose the changing colours of autumn as their subject matter is simply because it is the time of year when the natural world forces us to observe it slowly changing. In summer we can get lost in blue skies; in winter it is the temperature and damp that takes our attention; spring is dominated by the sounds and smells of life emerging.

But autumn makes us look at the world immediately around us and see that it changes almost before our eyes. That these changes are so stunning is a glorious treat.

Thank you for your editorial “Why visits to Auschwitz are so important” (October 20) which is an important and well written statement locally in view of the resurgence in race hatred and anti-semitism that we are currently seeing in Hackney, writes Cllr Ian Rathbone (Lab, Lea Bridge).

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The excellent Shomrim are showing us that unfortunately, intolerance is once again stalking our streets.

It was also good to see the article by Iain Burns about a visit to Auschwitz by Hackney sixth formers arranged by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET). It demonstrated the age old point that you need to see for yourself, as painful as that might be, the depths of evil that even a highly civilised and cultured society can fall to.

There are recognised steps to genocide, the first stage being name calling and the use of stereotypes, leading a few steps later to the murder of victims in a deliberate and systematic campaign. Unless we all stand up to it. Unless we speak out – which the Gazette has done.

In the steps to genocide some people in the community are no longer seen as humans, but as objects. Unfortunately we are seeing that happening before our eyes with the hostile attitudes in the media towards refugee children.

As the Gazette editorial so rightly and clearly says – referring to intolerance – “we see it in the language used by politicians to talk about refugees – rhetoric that is reported by newspapers and works its way into the minds of the people who vote in referendums”.

We must never give up and it is brave stands in the media like the Gazette that means that we are not standing by and doing nothing. As the Cable Street message says “they will not pass” – today we will not let them get away with it again.

To echo the editorial – “we all belong here”. As someone born here in Hackney I have always welcomed anyone from anywhere else in the world. Whether you’ve been here five minutes or 50 years, you’re a Hackneyite!

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about changes to healthcare (see p4), and with that comes a lot of uncertainty, writes Cllr Jonathan McShane, health boss and chair of health and wellbeing board, Hackney Council.

I regularly hear confusion, suspicion and anxiety expressed by residents, patients and health professionals. Much of it relates to the North East London Sustainability and Transformation Plan (NEL STP).

Many areas the STP emphasises are things people would agree with: prevention, early intervention, helping people live more healthily, and increasing understanding of and support for mental health. But the confusion and concern are understandable and justified. There has been a lack of transparency and engagement with residents – and with the democratically elected councils that represent them and deliver the public health and adult social care services fundamental to helping prevent ill-health and supporting independence.

The health organisations in Hackney have a good track record of working together. But we are a rapidly changing borough and still face significant health inequalities. As far as we’re concerned, local organisations working with residents, patients and the voluntary sector are best placed to deliver an effective and sustainable person-centred system, alongside the wider NHS.

This is why last year we successfully applied to be a health devolution pilot. Our shared vision for the borough covers the whole range of wellbeing – from public health initiatives for children, timely access to GPs and community pharmacists, and top quality hospital treatment. It also covers improving mental health services and helping people remain independent as long as possible.

Our devolution pilot currently forms part of the STP, which is encouraging, but we need to make sure a top-down plan doesn’t get in the way of us doing what is right for Hackney. We won’t accept any proposal that takes funds from Hackney to plug gaps in other parts of north-east London. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a long-term plan for our NHS.