Cutting Acute Services Risks Lives Claim Campaigners

Keep Our St Helier Hospital group say NHS plans should be reconsidered

Keep Our St Helier Hospital campaigning in 2018. Picture: KOSHH

Campaigners think people in Merton would be worse off and could even die if acute services, like accident and emergency were to leave St Helier Hospital in Wrythe Lane.

The Keep Our St Helier Hospital (KOSHH) campaign was started up in 2011 and now works to keep acute services at both St Helier and Epsom hospitals.

Last week plans were submitted to NHS England which show that services for the sickest and most at risk patients could be provided at just one hospital, Epsom, St Helier or Sutton.

These three options are ranked and building a brand new facility in Sutton is top of the list.

This new facility would provide the major element of A&E, acute medicine, critical care, emergency surgery, hospital births and inpatient paediatrics.

Sandra Ash from the KOSHH campaign group said: “I think the fact that we are talking about one acute facility rather than the two we have, means most people will have longer to travel. And some people could even die because of the greater journey times.

“In London distances don’t have to be that long to make a difference because of the congestion.

“This would have a considerable impact on local people. If a hospital loses its A&E department, that is what hospitals get money for.

“If you take away its major source of income it is not long before it is deemed no longer financially sustainable.”

A statement from the Epsom and St Helier Hospitals NHS Trust states that the proposed new model would mean that 85% of services remain at the two hospitals.

This includes urgent treatment centres, outpatients, day case surgery, antenatal and postnatal clinics, chemotherapy and dialysis.

A ‘pre-consultation business case’ has been put to NHS England by three Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), Merton, Sutton and Surrey Downs.

This is now known as the Improving Healthcare Together Programme.

A Trist statement reads: “It describes in detail the process to identify a compelling case for change, why ‘do nothing’ is not tenable, and the proposals for change and the implications.”

It adds that this latest submission is not a consultation document and is just to “bring everyone up to speed”.

Following feedback the three CCGs will meet in public to decide on the preferred option which will trigger formal public consultation.

The leader of Merton Council has vowed to fight for St Helier to retain all of its services.

Councillor Stephen Alambritis said the council wants to ensure that all Merton residents have access to acute services including “blue light A&E and consultant-led maternity services”.

He said: “I’m extremely disappointed that the Trust and the CCG appear to prefer an option that would remove essential services at St Helier.

“This is despite the overwhelming evidence of local need, and the clear opposing voice of Merton’s residents through the various engagement processes undertaken to date.”

But over the border, the plans have been welcomed by Sutton Council.

Council leader Councillor Ruth Dombey, said: “We are ambitious for Sutton and this announcement signals another significant milestone along the journey to improve the health and wellbeing of the residents in our borough.

“The London Cancer Hub, a partnership between the council, the Royal Marsden and the Institute of Cancer Research will put Sutton on the world map for cancer treatment and research.

“I hope the submission from Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust will further improve services in the borough for all our hospital patients, including emergency cases and those most at-risk.”

Tara O'Connor - Local Democracy Reporter

August 9, 2019