"Lives put at risk" as A&E axe looms again
Lives could be put at risk in Sutton if two of its most accessible accident and emergency (A&E) departments are closed, campaigners have claimed.
The controversial healthcare review, Better Services Better Value (BSBV), announced proposals last week to cut two A&E and two maternity departments out of St Helier, Epsom, Kingston and Croydon University Hospital.
It is feared that both St Helier and Epsom Hospitals, which have a combined deficit of £16.8m, will bear the brunt of BSBV's plans.
St Helier's departments were recommended for closure in a previous review.
The hospitals are the nearest in journey times for many of the residents living in the borough, and campaigners claimed losing them would leave many with emergency travel times to the other hospitals that were too long.
Question marks have also been raised this week about the ability of other hospital’s to cope in the future if two A&E departments are axed in the region, after it emerged paramedics spent over 140 hours in the last two months waiting outside Croydon University Hospital's A&E department to deliver patients because there were too few hospital staff to receive them.
Geoff Martin, chairman of pressure group London Health Emergency, said: "It was bad enough when they were threatening one A&E closure - someone living in Cheam or Stoneleigh could go to Epsom. But if that’s taken away too what option do you have?
"There will be people with life threatening injuries in the back of an ambulance looking for a bed and admission.
"Any extra minutes on your journey time could be the difference between life and death."
MP for Sutton and Cheam Paul Burstow argued that BSBV’s assumptions and figures do not support their conclusions.
He said: "If you look in terms of SW London and Surrey it’s hard to see it makes that much sense to take a big hole out of the middle and leave those in the centre having to travel much further.
"If you talk to anyone who knows traffic conditions about journey times to A&E and maternity they just laugh when they hear the claims made last year by BSBV.
"It doesn’t really bear any comparison to real life experience. It was a statistical speculation that doesn’t exist in the real world.
"Really for the planners of all this to say people shouldn’t be worried is grossly misleading."
Tom Brake the MP for Carshalton and Wallington said: "I think BSBV have seriously underestimated travel times at peak times or when road conditions are poor.
"I think there was no confidence in what came out of the previous one because some of the data was fundamentally flawed. Given they have a chance again they have a chance to do it properly."
A BSBV spokesman said: "Patient journey times will of course be an important factor in any recommendation that is put forward.
"We will be working with the London Ambulance Service, South East Coast Ambulance Service, Transport for London and others on expected travel times by ambulance, car and public transport."
A programme board meeting is taking place next week when a decision will be taken on when to set up a scoring event on which specific hospitals should be recommended for closure.
As part of BSBV's review last year a scoring panel made up of SW London hospital trusts, local authority members and community representatives recommended St Helier lose its frontline services.
They judged the hospitals on a variety of factors including journey times, clinical outcomes and patient experience.
However, the same review is now being carried out again to include Epsom Hospital.
This map shows journey times estimated by the Transport Direct website for those driving from Sutton to hospitals other than Epsom and St Helier.
The Sutton Guardian carried out their own investigation last year and found it took 11mins and 22secs to drive from Quadrant House in the centre of Sutton to St Helier.
BSBV said the average expected extra increase in travel time to get to another hospital should be 6m 54s and in the worst case scenario an extra 12m 24s.
However, the Sutton Guardian team found it 35mins and 2secs to drive to Croydon University Hospital - an increase of 23mins 40secs.