Children's wards at Kingston, St Helier, and Croydon hospitals could close
Children's wards at three hospitals in SW London have been earmarked for closure under an NHS review.
St Helier, Kingston and Croydon University hospitals are all set to lose their inpatient paediatric care as part of NHS SW London's Better Services Better Value (BSBV) review into healthcare in the region.
It emerged this week healthcare professionals carrying out a review of children's services are to present the recommendation to health bosses later this month that children's wards at three SW London hospitals close.
Proposals seen by this newspaper show the clinical working group review will recommend only one specialist impatient childrens' ward in SW London, and this should be St George’s Hospital, given its role as a major acute hospital including a major trauma centre.
The clinical working group is recommending the changes because of a shortage of paediatricians locally and nationally, which they say means children's wards are not sustainable across the four hospitals.
If the proposals are approved St Helier would lose its 18 bed children's ward, Croydon its 12 bed ward, and Kingston would also lose its children's ward.
Children needing overnight treatment would be sent to St George's Hospital.
The recommendation is part of the same review that has earmarked St Helier to lose its accident and emergency (A&E) and maternity departments.
If approved, St Helier would also lose its children's A&E. Croydon, Kingston and St George's hospitals would keep specialist children's A&E departments.
Each hospital with an A&E should have paediatric assessment unit (PAU) where children could stay for up to 24 hours while they are assessed.
The proposals have raised serious questions about the long-term future of Epsom and St Helier University Hospital Trust's dedicated children's hospital Queen Mary's Hospital for Children, where St Helier's children's ward is based.
Geoff Martin, a spokesman for health watchdog London Health Emergency, raised concerns about the plans.
He said: "This is another example of the systematic salami slicing of services that are vital to communities, that in term will affect their financial viability, and see further services disappear.
"NHS bosses say they want to provide more services closer to people's homes but this will make often very sick children and their parents travel even further to receive treatment."
Bianca Effemey, co-founder of a children’s cancer charity which has invested £200,000 into improving childrens wards in SW London, criticised the recommendation.
She said: “I would be dead against this. It is terribly important to all parents who have children and get treated. It [St George’s Hospital] is too far for them to go.”
A spokeswoman for Kingston Hospital said in a statement: “The debate about children's services in south west London is still on-going and doctors and nurses from within Kingston Hospital have strong views about what is the best option for children's services in south west London.
“We continue to be committed to discussing these important issues over the coming weeks so that together we can propose a model to deliver the best care for all of our patients.”
A spokeswoman for Croydon Health Services said: "The BSBV Programme Board have the responsibility of endorsing the recommendations of working groups and, at this stage, no decisions have yet been made about paediatric care in South West London.
"It is therefore too soon to comment on what this means for Croydon.
"BSBV is a clinically led review and clinicians from Croydon have helped to develop the recommendations."
"Local people will be invited to take part in a consultation later this year when the options have been fully assessed and we encourage all local people to take part."
A BSBV spokesman said: "The children’s services clinical working group has completed its report, but this has not yet been approved by the BSBV Programme Board. We expect it to be approved and formally published later this month."