BSBV decision on whether to axe St Helier hospital's frontline services delayed again
A decision on whether St Helier Hospital should lose its accident and emergency department has been postponed for a second time - sparking fresh calls for the healthcare review recommending the closure to be scrapped.
The Better Services Better Value (BSBV) review was expected to announce today it was recommending the closure of St Helier and Epsom hospital’s A&E and maternity departments.
Sources revealed a scoring panel had voted to downgrade both hospitals last week.
However, a shock announcement by Epsom and Ewell MP Chris Grayling, less than 24 hours before BSBV bosses were due to meet to decide the hospitals' fate on Wednesday, revealed the decision would be delayed at least until at least next month.
It has been rumoured the postponement was because Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), a group of GPs that from April will be planning local healthcare in North Surrey, are opposed to the review.
Its equivalent group in Sutton, the Sutton CCG, has also in the past expressed its concerns about the controversial review.
The review has also faced huge pressure this week with representatives from Sutton Council, Surrey County Council, Epsom and Ewell Borough Council and Merton Council calling for the entire review to be halted.
It is rumoured health bosses do not feel they currently have the grounds to push the review through.
The first BSBV review last year, which cost £2m, recommended St Helier’s A&E and maternity wards should close - sparking huge protests involving hundreds of people.
The consultation was delayed at the last minute in order to include Epsom Hospital after its merger with Ashford and St Peter’s collapsed.
The latest delay causes further uncertainties for the thousands of staff at St Helier hospital who expected to hear a decision this morning and meet with MPs Tom Brake and Paul Burstow later in the week.
NHS London was expected to sign off a pre-consultation business case (plans) in late March which would go to public consultation in May.
However, depending on how long the latest delay is, local healthcare will become the responsibility of the new clinical commissioning groups in April and it is not clear how the process will continue.
On Wednesday when this newspaper went to print BSBV refused to comment or answer any of our questions.
Paul Burstow, the MP for Sutton and Cheam who has been calling for the review to be halted, said: "The trouble with postponing it is that it doesn’t resolve the matter. What I would really welcome is that the BSBV review is going to be disbanded.
"I suspect they have had a combination of things - letters from each of the local authorities in the area calling for it to be halted. I suspect they have had serious challenges from clinicians about the safety of what they are proposing and it was a combination of those.
"The good news is that the old NHS structures that set this in motion two years ago will be disbanded on March 31.
"The clinical commissioning groups will have to make their own decision as to how best to protect the health care needs of their population."
Councillor Ruth Dombey, leader of Sutton Council, said: "If it is correct that the decision has been postponed, we welcome that as a victory for all of us and because it gives us time to keep making the case that the whole scheme should be scrapped.
"However, it prolongs the uncertainty which is very difficult for hospital staff and local residents. We would prefer to see this whole project abandoned and real thought given to safeguarding the future of St Helier Hospital."
Tom Brake the MP for Carshalton and Wallington is urging people to attend a public meeting to challenge those behind the review.
The meeting will take place at 7pm on Thursday, February 21, at the Carshalton Boys Sports College, Winchcombe Road.