Protests Over Plans For St Helier Hospital

Local Tories visit threatened units

Conservatives protesting against plans to close the Accident & Emergency and Maternity units at St Helier Hospital have met staff at the threatened units.

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. The children's ward would also close as part of the plans.

Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond MP, the leader of the Conservative group on Merton Council, Councillor Debbie Shears, and shadow health spokesperson Councillor Suzanne Evans visited the hospital on Monday (July 2). See picture on the right.

They were told that the BSBV team made their recommendations without visiting the units involved.

Mr Hammond said: "I was delighted to visit St Helier once again and have the chance to see the birth centre, maternity wards and neo-natal intensive care unit. The excellence of the facilities and the quality of care is highly impressive. It's difficult to understand how the BSBV team have reached the decision to close these units at a time of rising demand. Local residents are rightly concerned at the proposals and I hope through the consultation process we can convince people that closing these units is the wrong decision.

"What impressed me most was the commitment and hard work of all the staff we met," said Councillor Debbie Shears. "Despite the threat hanging over their heads they’re refusing to admit defeat. We owe it to them to campaign even harder to protect services at St Helier, so much improved in recent years. If local politicians can’t fight for them when they’re under such intense pressure, then who can?

"Going back to the maternity unit 19 years after my own daughter was born at St Helier was a very moving experience. I wasn't surprised to hear that mums-to-be from across SW London flock to the new birthing unit, it's such a calm and soothing environment.

"And seeing twins in the paediatric intensive care unit that St George's couldn;t take because they were full, and two more tiny babies too ill for treatment at Epsom hospital was a real eye-opener; without St Helier these babies would have had to be moved out of London.  It really brought home to us how vital these valuable, local services are for local people. That they might vanish is a prospect I’d say is completely unacceptable.

"I was appalled to hear that the BSBV team leaders who are responsible for these recommendations, haven't bothered to visit A&E, Maternity or the Children’s Ward. They've effectively signed its death warrant at arms’ length. If they visited, like we have today, I doubt they could fail to see just how valuable St Helier is, and would be fighting themselves to keep it open."

July 3, 2012

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Local politicians fight St Helier closures