Healthcare review accused of "fast-tracking" the closure of A&Es
From 60 to 8: Last year's panel consisted of 60 representatives this time up to eight people will score the region's hospitals
An NHS healthcare review has been accused of fast-tracking the closure of two hospitals' frontline services.
Last year a scoring event involving 60 people from hospital trusts, local authorities and community representatives recommended that St Helier Hospital should be the hospital in SW London to lose its accident and emergency and maternity department.
However, as the Better Services Better Value (BSBV) review is carried out for a second time to include Epsom Hospital, an "expert panel" made up of only seven or eight people will score the options and their scores reviewed by 21 patient representatives, GPs and clinicians.
This time there will be no public announcement of the scoring results until February 20 when the BSBV Programme Board makes a recommendation to the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts on which option should go to consultation.
Campaigners have said by reducing the amount of people involved in the scoring process, health bosses are trying to push through the review - which is expected to recommend St Helier and Epsom hospitals lose the frontline services - without sufficient consultation.
Geoff Martin, the chairman of pressure group London Health Emergency, said: "They are simply fast tracking Epsom and St Helier into oblivion without even the pretence of carrying out a proper evaluation or consultation."
Mary Burstow, the chair of the health and well being scrutiny committee, said: "In terms of what they are proposing my concerns are total lack of transparency.
"They are not going to say who the individuals are until the results of the process are announced.
"As a councillor I’m part of an organisation that’s transparent as it can be to the public. We recognise you are a service to the public and using tax payers money - why can’t the NHS?"
Both of Sutton’s MPs Paul Burstow and Tom Brake are calling for an end to the BSBV review.
Mr Brake, MP for Carshalton and Wallington, said: "If it is to proceed, given the concerns expressed previously about the scoring panel, this time we need a transparent, representative, deliberative and balanced process which reassures residents that St Helier Hospital has been given a fair crack of the whip."
Paul Burstow MP said: "It's now just weeks before GPs take over the responsibility for making decisions about our local NHS. To be credible they need to be seen to start from scratch and work with the Council the local Healthwatch, patients and MPs to map out the future shape of local health services."
A spokesman for BSBV said: "The scoring panel in May 2012 was not a decision-making body, but was part of engagement on the programme, sharing the issues we faced with local people and asking them to score potential options.
"The feedback from the engagement event was considered by the Clinical Strategy Group and the Programme Board as part of their discussions to agree preferred options for consultation.
"However, some people were wrongly left with the impression that the scoring panel had made recommendations.
"We want to be very clear this time that the decision will be made by the Programme Board, taking into account the financial and non-financial appraisal."