Merton Councilors Call For Review Of St Helier Hospital 999 Decision

Belmont in Sutton has been picked as location for new emergency hospital

St Helier Hospital

Merton councillors are calling on a decision to change the way emergency services are run in South London to be overturned.


At a meeting this week it was agreed that the council will write to the health secretary Matt Hancock asking for an independent review into a decision to build a new emergency hospital in Sutton.


The decision will mean that the A&E departments at St Helier and Epsom hospitals will close, becoming ‘district hospitals’ with urgent treatment centres.


The sickest patients needing emergency treatment will be taken to a new hospital on the same site as the Royal Marsden in Downs Lane.


In its letter, the council will claim that having a single emergency hospital in Sutton would move services away from deprived areas in Merton.


Councillor Peter McCabe, said: “Closing acute services at St Helier Hospital, including the accident and emergency department and the consultant-led maternity service would be detrimental to residents in the most deprived areas of Merton and would result in a substantially inferior health service for patients across the borough and beyond.”


The decision to write the letter was backed by the Merton Liberal Democrats but not the borough’s Conservative opposition.


Conservative councillor Nigel Benbow accused the council of “delaying tactics”.

Tweeting after the meeting, he said: “The decision has been made and I fully support St Helier’s overdue upgrade.


“Why delay the fantastic opportunity for the local residents?  Hospitals are constantly improving with advanced technology at all times and must be available for everyone.”


The move was also slammed by Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond, but he would have preferred the new hospital to be built at St Helier.


After the meeting he said: “This decision was taken in clear contradiction of the evidence from local clinical groups, local doctors and the local NHS.


“Whilst Merton Conservative Councillors and I would have preferred the new hospital to have been built at St Helier, we recognise that the approved plans are still fantastic news for Merton residents.


“It means there will be an improvement in the quality, quantity and access to healthcare in the area. It also means a refurbished St Helier Hospital is here to stay, providing the majority of local health services, and the sickest patients will get state-of-the-art treatment in the brand-new specialist emergency hospital.”


But council leader, councillor Stephen Alambritis, said that closing the A&E department at St Helier is a “terrible decision”.


He added: “The huge impact of COVID-19 on local health services has not properly been taken into account and lessons from the pandemic must be learned before decisions are made about the future of critical health services for Merton residents.”


The £500 million plan will also see Epsom and St Helier get an £80 million makeover to improve the crumbling buildings.


The decision on where the hospital will be built was made on July 3 and consultation on the proposals ran from January until April this year which more than 4,000 people responded to.


When the decision was made, Dr Andrew Murray, a Wimbledon GP and clinical chair at NHS South West London Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This means people can get the care they need in refurbished buildings locally, with a brand new specialist hospital nearby if they need it.


“This will give our residents the quality of care they need in the buildings and facilities our NHS staff deserve.”

By Tara O'Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

July 24, 2020