Gazette letters: Horse chestnut canker, barbecue users and NHS cuts

A horse chestnut tree with bleeding canker. Picture: WILL McCALLUM

A horse chestnut tree with bleeding canker. Picture: WILL McCALLUM - Credit: Archant

One of my favourite trees in London is a horse chestnut, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

As you head down off Parliament Hill towards the men’s bathing pond, it is obvious which one I mean.

Its roots yanked half out of the ground as once upon a time it toppled. The branches that firmly lodged themselves in the ground as it fell have long since become trunks – one tree, through falling, has become three. Suitably, it often plays host to playing children, and young couples – who find the undulating, Loch Ness monster trunk the perfect spot.

Along my road and throughout Hackney, I’ve noticed horse chestnuts in trouble. Reddish-brown spots spreading on their leaves. It is an unhealthy look. Bleeding canker, this disease is called, and left untreated it can end up killing the tree.

Techniques to treat it are well known – feeding the tree properly, making sure the soil around it is healthy, making sure infected parts of the tree where possible are removed. Such treatments require expertise and funding, though.

It’s clear if we wish to keep some of the city’s most interesting trees (and the animals they support), local authorities need the budget to deal with problems like these.

I am interested in local residents Mike Hood and Ivor Benjamin’s views about the barbecue field, writes Rebecca Marques, full address supplied.

Most Read

I live one street away from London Fields and enjoy seeing everyone making the most of the park at the weekends.

In the main, I have seen the barbecuers being good natured and laid-back and causing very little trouble. Most of them take their waste to the bins and whilst it is true that there is always more that can be done to improve the small amount of antisocial behaviour and rubbish left behind I think that most are having a good time without going out of their way to be inconsiderate. They also contribute a huge amount of money to the local economy.

I think that the particulate pollution the barbecues cause is far less than the amount released by vehicles locally. I hope the hipsters carry on having their fun and I thank the park keepers for their amazing work looking after the park.

I will continue to enjoy both the entertainment of the busy times and the quiet moments of early mornings and rainy days when the park is like a secret garden.

Despite government pledges to “transform” the way mental health is viewed and reduce stigma surrounding it, the sector continues to be subjected to cuts, writes a mental health social worker and member of Hackney Keep Our NHS Public (full name and address supplied).

As a mental health social worker in a Hackney, I feel moved to share my experience, to raise awareness and explain why we can’t continue in this way.

There has been a great deal of restructuring in Hackney mental health services over the past five years, restructuring that doesn’t appear to be based on clinical need, but rather on the imperative to make financial savings. Last summer, Older Adults services saw the closure of the Intermediate Care Team, an important crisis team that provides intensive support during a time of crisis or following a psychiatric admission. Furthermore, the specialist dementia service is being merged with the older adults community mental health team, to “streamline” and make further savings.

Meanwhile, working-age adult mental health services in the borough have been restructured, going from four locality teams to two, and losing 25 per cent of psychotherapy services. They are now facing the closure of the Assertive Outreach team. This is a specialist team with the skills and resources to work with complex and difficult-to-engage individuals. As a result, staff in the community mental health team will be taking on these cases, which means higher caseloads of higher risk and complexity, without the benefit of more time and resources.

According to NHS policy, the duty to consult with staff and service users needs to occur ahead of any plans that involve a significant change to service delivery. When the intermediate care team was closed, there were no attempts to engage with services’ users and staff were only consulted when the plans were reaching their final stages.

This is not an issue unique to Hackney or mental health. The crisis in the NHS more generally has been high on the news agenda in recent months. Beyond the NHS, severe cuts to all sectors of public services in Hackney including adult social care, domestic violence services and drug and alcohol services are having an knock-on effect on mental health. Vital voluntary sector services that were often propping up or filling the gaps left by NHS or council services have also felt the impact of cuts – and many have either closed or dramatically reduced their service.

Following the election result, it looks as though the people of the UK are becoming angrier about the attack on our public services. If you work in health and social care, join a union you feel represents your values, stand with others and create a critical mass. Or you can join an activist group like Hackney People’s Assembly Against Austerity or Hackney Keep Our NHS Public, or a political party that opposes austerity measures.

It is important we keep applying this pressure to protect our public services and protect the privileges many fought so hard for us to enjoy.