Hundreds urged to mobilise against St Helier Hospital downgrade plan at Mitcham Baptist Church
Hundreds of residents crammed into a packed meeting last night to mark their opposition against planned cuts to vital services at St Helier Hospital.
The Better Services Better Value (BSBV) review of healthcare in south-west London and north Surrey has recommended Accident & Emergency (A&E), maternity and children’s services to close at St Helier.
Under the preferred option Epsom is also set to lose its A&E and maternity unit but gain a centre for waiting list operations for south west London.
Kingston Hospital, St George’s Hospital and Croydon University Hospital will remain as they are but will be extended.
Opening the meeting at Mitcham Baptist church last night, Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh said St Helier was the "biggest loser" and encouraged residents to write to their GPs to express their opposition.
She said: "I cannot guarantee that we will be successful in this fight. But if we were to do nothing it will happen.
"That’s why you are so incredibly important."
Residents at the meeting heard from Dr Brian Fisher and Councillor Vicky Foxcroft from the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign which successfully fought off plans to reduce services at their hospital.
Following a judicial review a High Court judge declared the plan unlawful on the basis the hospital should never have been included in plans.
A judicial review challenges a decision made by a public body such as the government but costs upwards of £20,000 if lost.
Councillor Vicky Foxcroft, of Lewisham Council, said: "There have been risks with it.
"It very expensive and we have won so we don’t have to pay the costs and that’s brilliant.
"But if we hadn’t won we would have had to pay the costs associated with it."
She added: "A lot of people want to call for a judicial review and think what’s happened in Lewisham is exciting.
"It is and we are thrilled with the result.
"But we know the Government is appealing and if they are successful we will want to appeal it.
"So there is a chance it will end up in the Supreme Court and that is very expensive."
Speaking after the meeting one resident Rose Keeping, said the Lewisham Campaign's success had given residents hope that plans to downgrade St Helier could be stopped.
She said: "The main concern is that people will suffer as usual.
"They are saying there won’t be a problem because there are only so many minutes between St Helier and St George's hospitals.
"In the real world it’s quite a long tedious journey by car and we all know the reality of jams on the road.
"Inevitably lives will be put at risk."
She added: "It's being driven by money and by making a profit out of everything and there are some things in life that should not be driven by money.
"Life is beyond measure as far as money is concerned.
"It will be the undertakers who will take up the overflow because there will be a huge rise in death.
"It is a brutal thing to say but I think it’s inevitable."
Merton Council leader Stephen Alambritis vowed to do everything he could to oppose the plans, including launching a judicial review.
He also confirmed independent research was already being undertaken by the council into BSBV's business case in order to refute claims made in their plans.
This, he said, would take around two months to complete but would be used during the consultation stages and beyond to fight the plans.
Coun Alambritis said: "What I do know is that there is absolutely no business case for closing St Helier Hospital.
"The BSBV sums do not add up. There is a lack of due diligence, no proportionality, no targeting or consistency.
"I believe that BSBV is wholly wrong and should not be followed up. The council is fully supportive of the campaign to keep St Helier Hospital’s services."
He added: "We as a council will engage in a judicial review like Lewisham.
"We will be bold just as Lewisham has been."
All seven NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), except Surrey Downs who are in charge of Epsom hospital, agreed in May to go out to public consultation on the plans which is currently expected to run for 12 weeks from November.
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