I promised staff caring for me last December that I’d follow up housing and transport issues. It took me a while to figure out the structures (amongst other things) but I managed to table some Qs to their annual meeting.
When I was in hospital in December 2021, it was in the middle of the last lockdown due to another spike in CV19. Which reminds me – The Public Inquiry into Covid in the UK has begun. As with the Grenfell Inquiry whose evidence sessions rinsed public and private bodies from frontline to government ministers and chief execs, this inquiry is being run on very similar lines – and has already started liverstreaming and uploading videos onto their YTube Channel.
Lockdown meant no visitors. But for some reason when I was admitted to hospital I had some local transport-related papers with me, so it was a chance to ask hospital staff caring for me about their housing and transport situations. Hence this blogpost from 2021.
Cambridge University Hospitals – which has its own YTube channel here – livestreamed the meeting on its Fbook page (you can tell I’m trying to avoid bot taggers). Such was my state of fatigue last week trying that I fell asleep in front of my laptop before my questions were read out. Click here to watch the meeting from the start.
Ministers have failed to ensure funding has kept up with demand for healthcare – and Cambridge’s growing population
And not just Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire – the constituency that Addenbrooke’s serves goes beyond our county boundaries, as I wrote in this blogpost. The shortage of housing for healthcare staff (amongst everyone else needed to run a city competently) hit the headlines again in May 2022.
As Gemma Gardner wrote in the Cambridge Independent on 11 May 2022, the housing crisis is hitting our city’s ability to provide decent healthcare.
Here is my first question, read out by Dr Mike More of Cambridge University Hospitals
“What conversations is the Trust having with the local planning authorities (Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council amongst others) …to identify new housing sites for key workers?”Antony Carpen – Q to Cambridge University Hospitals Trust Annual Meeting Sept 2022.
In the response, the Trust confirmed it had commissioned a report to assess housing needs for hospital workers which was published in January 2020. It looks like this one by Savills for CUH NHS.
Above – a screengrab of the report’s front page. The executive summary does not pull its punches.
“Cambridge is one of the least affordable housing markets in the country with a median house price to median income ratio of 13, compared with the national average of 7.8. Two median earners in Cambridge, with a 25% deposit, could afford a two bed property worth approximately £350,000, below both average two bed flats (£390,000) and two bed houses (£456,000) in the area. For lower quartile earners, the equivalent property that could be afforded would be £268,500.”Savills (2020) p5
This is a picture that many people in and around our city will be more than familiar with. And with interest rates & inflation rising higher than earnings for most people, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
“CUH have provided data about their staff working at Addenbrooke’s and The Rosie Hospital. This shows that a high proportion of employees are aged under 40 (less likely to own their own home) and earn less than £40,000. The majority of these people are classified as Nursing and Midwifery Registered, Additional Clinical Services, and Administrative and Clerical.”Savills (2020) p6
The conclusions for those on the lowest incomes (but whose roles are nonetheless essential) speak volumes.
“The discounts required from prevailing market pricing means that the only realistic option for many is likely to be a discounted rental product. A high proportion of the priority groups are prepared to consider the option of renting from a council or housing association.”Savills (2020) p11
It’s also worth noting that ‘halls of residence-style accommodation’ is not the preferred choice for many – which is understandable for anyone over the age of 21 not looking for a uni-style lifestyle.
“The negative response toward sharing accommodation (with shared facilities) with other CUH staff will make it difficult to offer as a housing solution, even with the consideration of factors such as discounted cost that would make it more appealing.”Ibid.
Then we come to public transport. I was shocked to hear from those caring for me how far some of them had to travel. One nurse commuted in from South Lincolnshire every day, and another from Stevenage – spending a few days working at a hospital in London, and a few in Cambridge.
“Connectivity to CUH and Cambridge city centre is of key importance in any future housing provision. The survey showed that it is very or moderately important to over 80% of all respondents. There is a relationship between duration of commute and levels of commute satisfaction with the clear message that a commute duration over 60 minutes for any new housing would have a significant negative impact on demand.”Savills (2020) p12
The final part of the conclusion in the executive summary is one for transport policy makers, whether elected politicians or officers.
“Other than length and cost of commute, reliability, frequency and capacity of public transport are issues that would need to be considered in future housing options as they are common causes of dissatisfaction. Lack of parking is cited as a major problem affecting commute satisfaction and it could be reduced as an issue if there were better public transport options.”Ibid
There’s nothing there that will come as a huge surprise to the various transport authorities. Given the front page of today’s Cambridge Independent (05 Oct 2022) I’m glad that the message about needing more than an improved bus network is finally getting through.
Above – Cambridge Independent citing comments from Cllr Lucy Nethsingha (LibDems – Newnham), Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council and also one of our former MEPs pre-Brexit.
Cllr Nethsingha’s full comments will be published online in due course. Alternatively, buy the paper!
Skills and training – and lifelong learning
I asked about this too – as did a couple of other people. Have a listen.
Their responses on apprenticeships is consistent with my experience in hospital – the number of apprentices very visible in their grey Anglia Ruskin tunics – a useful point of a conversation starter given I’m a former Anglia Ruskin University post-graduate student. (PG.Dip in History from 2005).
I’ll leave the rest for you to listen through, and also to browse through the Savills housing report from 2020 – if you have any questions please put them to your local councillors or MP (otherwise nothing will come from it), or put your questions to/get involved with Healthwatch Cambridgeshire. If you want to keep a closer watching brief on what’s happening at Addenbrooke’s and The Rosie you can become a Foundation Trust Member for free (like me). The same goes for the Royal Papworth Hospital – their Foundation Trust Membership page is here.
Now can you see why trying to keep up with scrutinising public services can feel like a full time job?
And I haven’t even started on the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire & Peterborough!
Hence why we need more people getting involved in how our city, county, and even country is run. Because at the moment the ministers at the top are doing an extraordinarily bad job, despite showing extraordinary ambition to secure those ministerial posts in the first place!
Food for thought?
If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to: