Government health experts approve St Helier Hospital cuts
Government health experts have given NHS plans to axe key services at St Helier Hospital the go ahead, despite raising a string of concerns about their impact on care.
The National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT) has approved NHS SW London's plans to close the hospital's accident and emergency, maternity and children's wards by 2016-17.
It means the NHS will now move forward to consultation on the proposals.
Despite giving approval, NCAT raised concerns about the figures being used in the Better Services, Better Value review, to support the proposals.
It echoes concerns raised by the Government's Office of Government Commerce (OGC) over data and a lack of detail being used by the review team to support its proposals.
The BSBV review team is arguing Croydon, St George's, and Kingston Hospitals will be able to cope with demand for their services if the A&E and maternity departments close at St Helier, because more people will be treated in the community and less people will be visiting A&E.
But the NCAT report questions BSBV bosses' assertions 60 per cent of emergency department patients could be treated away from A&Es. In the review it states: "Elsewhere in the UK a consistent finding is that the percentage of patients who are actually seen by primary care clinicians is far lower, usually in the order of 15to 20 per cent. Reconfiguration based on the higher figure may not achieve the anticipated benefits."
NCAT also states there is a lack of detail about how health bosses intend to reduce child hospital admissions and allow more children to be treated at home. It also states that the proposals for maternity wards will benefit from NHS SW London stating how many beds will be required on each hospital site, how they will be used and what the bed occupancy will be.
Dr Howard Freeman, local GP and joint medical director of the BSBV programme welcomed the result, said: "As we expected, NCAT have also put forward a number of recommendations which they believe will improve our chances of putting forward these changes successfully. We are already addressing some of these and our proposed plans going forward directly address all of them."