Councillors Will Fight Plans For St Helier Hospital

Accident and maternity units set to close

Plans to close the Accident & Emergency and Maternity units at St Helier Hospital have been met with opposition from local politicians.

A panel of 60 local medics, NHS executives and patients made the recommendations as part of the NHS SW London's 'Better Services Better Value' Review (BSBV).

It earmarked the units at St Helier for closure rather than those at St George's, Croydon or Kingston Hospitals.

But Councillor Stephen Alambritis, Leader of Merton Council, said: "This government is starving the NHS of funding. This has led to the shocking decision to close St. Helier's A&E and maternity services. I want to send a message to this Tory-led government. The people of Merton will not take this decision lying down. We will fight any attempt to downgrade our local hospital and proposals to cut our A&E and maternity services."

And Conservative Health Spokesperson, Councillor Suzanne Evans, spoke out at the South West London Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Commission (JHOSC), a meeting held specifically to question the process, and left unconvinced that the move will benefit patients in Merton.

"St Helier's A&E and Maternity departments are busier than ever and the numbers of people using them are only likely to increase," she said.

"And why, when the NHS says it wants to diminish health inequalities, is it considering closing units in a deprived area, with high numbers of older people, and residents who’ll struggle to travel to other hospitals because they have to use public transport?

"It's hard not to be cynical about this; we’ve always feared it would be St Helier that loses A&E and Maternity services and that BSBV would champion the other SW London hospitals at the expense of St Helier. The BSBV team is saying this isn't a 'done deal' but they'll have to make an incredibly strong case for closure if they are to convince us on this. Meanwhile, we’ll be putting up a strong fight."

Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond added: "I was surprised and disappointed at the clinician-led proposals to close St Helier's Accident and Emergency and Maternity Services. It is very difficult to understand how such a proposal was scored and arrived at. I have had briefings and will be meeting the local NHS to discuss and try to comprehend how this disappointing conclusion was reached.

"Of course this was a doctor-led process and had nothing to do with the Government. For the Leader of Merton Council to suggest the proposal is a result of 'so called Tory cuts' is not only wrong but it is also an outrageous attempt to mislead local people. It is also completely inaccurate to attribute this proposal to the NHS reorganisation. It has nothing to do with it.

" Local Labour politicians should remember that when in government they actively supported local decision-making. They should tell the truth and oppose the doctor-led proposals.

"‘I am opposed to the closure of the Maternity Unit. St George's is overstretched and there are fantastic new facilities at St Helier. The decision is therefore inexplicable and looks simply wrong."

A 14-week public consultation on the BSBV recommendations is expected to start in September.

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May 11, 2012