St Helier cuts face uncertainty after Epsom Hospital merger collapse
Plans to axe St Helier Hospital’s accident and emergency and maternity departments face uncertainty after the healthcare review carrying out the cuts announced it was reviewing its proposals.
The news follows the announcement on Thursday, October 25, that Epsom Hospital, currently joined as a trust with St Helier, was no longer merging with Ashford and St Peter’s in Surrey.
The collapse of the merger affects the Better Service Better Value (BSBV) review of healthcare in SW London because the proposals were drawn up on the assumption that Epsom Hospital would no longer be part of Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust.
The BSBV review has said that St Helier Hospital should be the hospital in SW London to lose its accident and emergency, maternity and children’s wards, and should become a centre of planned care.
But BSBV has now said it will be reviewing its proposals as a result of the merger collapse.
It dismissed suggestions the plans to axe the key services could be dropped as “speculation”, and said no change to health services was not an option.
The reasons given for the collapse of Epsom’s merger with Ashford and St Peter’s include Epsom’s £13.8m deficit, the introduction of the new Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and how they will buy services in the future, as well as the impact of the BSBV review in SW London.
Urgent discussions will now take place to determine whether a way forward can be found for both hospitals, which have been ruled as financially unviable to continue in a trust together.
St Helier Hospital, whose merger with St George’s Hospital collapsed in January, has already been drawing up plans to become an independent trust with its A&E, maternity and children’s ward maintained.
Ruth Carnall, chief executive of NHS London, has made a commitment to continue to support Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust in its current form until an appropriate solution was found.
Sutton and Cheam MP, Paul Burstow, said: “The news that Ashford St Peter’s is pulling out of its merger with Epsom is hugely disappointing.
“To leave it so late in the day is astonishing. For months the NHS BSBV team and senior PCT managers have told us that the merger, BSBV and the rebuild at St Helier were three independent projects.
“It was always nonsense and now a botched BSBV project is causing chaos.”
He said it was now time for a rethink and for the new GP-led CCGs, that will run NHS services in the region from next April, to work with St Helier to secure the future of its A&E and maternity unit.
MP for Mitcham and Morden, Siobhain McDonagh, said: "I would love to hope that they will give up because they realise the enormity of what they are doing, but we will be ready and waiting and we are not giving up.
"We have to carry on fighting.
"If we take our eye off the ball they will be back."
She added: "It’s frightening that so much money could be invested in something that is so superficial and flimsy."
A BSBV spokesman said: "We have already announced a delay to launching public consultation while we support NHS Surrey to examine the impact of the BSBV proposals on Surrey residents who use services in SW London.
“The BSBV proposals were based on Epsom Hospital being part of Ashford and St Peter’s in Surrey. We will now need to look again at our proposals.
“This will mean a longer delay, but our clinicians leading BSBV are clear that no change is not an option: we need to give all local people better health services.”