Services 'here to stay' at St Helier, pledges new chief executive
St Helier Hospital is here to stay and there are no plans to lose services - that is the message coming from its new chief executive.
After years of financial problems, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust is now breaking even new chief executive Chrisha Alagaratnam, who has a background in accountancy and was previously the trust's financial director, said that, combined with high patient satisfaction ratings, should protect the hospitals' services in any future reviews.
Chrisha Alagaratnam talks to reporter Mike Murphy-Pyle
Services at St Helier Hospital were placed under threat by the controversial Better Services Better Value review, a cost-cutting programme that proposed axing maternity and A&E services.
But that was scrapped earlier this year and, although a future review is planned, it is hoped the hospital's new-found financial stability will mean services are safe.
The trust has implemented a range of cost-saving policies in the past three years that have helped it go from a predicted £19million deficit to a £7.4million deficit last year and break-even point this year.
During an interview with the Sutton Guardian, Ms Alagaratnam said: "This year we're posting a break-even position. We've been on trajectory for this for the last three years.
"The best thing about it is that we've been able to improve the quality of care in that time."
She said the cost savings had been achieved through various means, particularly cutting down the use of agency staff and sharing facilities across the two sites.
She added: "There have been 11 strategic reviews in the last nine or 10 years, and BSBV was the latest.
"From the trust's point of view, for the last few months we've just been working on our own plan to make sure the trust has a viable future - breaking even is an important part of that.
"The best thing we can do is to continue to provide care to patients and to make sure our finances are continuing to improve.
"We're here to stay. This is a brilliant hospital and we have fantastic staff and fantastic volunteers."
St Helier was also dealt a blow recently when plans to invest £219million for a large-scale redevelopment of the site were shelved. Ms Alagaratnam said that plan was first revealed in 2009 and that since then situations have changed but there is a plan to invest £78 million over upgrades in the next five years.
She also said the trust has a five-year plan that does not involve St Helier and Epsom Hospitals separating - despite doctors in Surrey voting to leave BBSBV while doctors in Sutton remained in support of it.
She added: "There's no reason for them to split up - we are strong as a trust."
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