St Helier should lose A&E and maternity, says panel
St Helier Hospital faces its darkest day after an NHS review panel recommended it lose its Accident and Emergency and maternity departments.
Hospital staff could lose their jobs, while more lives in Sutton could be lost as critically ill residents and expectant mums face significantly increased journey times to hospital.
This newspaper is launching a campaign to Save St Helier Hospital from losing the frontline departments so vital to its community.
Today, a panel of 60 representatives made up from SW London hospital trusts, local authority members and community representatives recommended St Helier lose its frontline services over Croydon University and Kingston hospital.
They scored each hospital as part of the Better Service, Better Value healthcare review, which announced two months ago one of the hospitals faced the cuts.
It is expected that St Helier hospital will now host a new planned surgery centre and a “range of other services”.
The recommendation will be ratified by various boards before a three month public consultation begins and a final decision is taken by the NHS.
During that time this newspaper will fight to have the recommendation thrown out.
The future of the promised £219m refurbishment is also now uncertain.
MP for Carshalton and Wallington, Tom Brake, said: “This is very disappointing news, I would urge the BSBV team to look at the facts and predictions.
“The demand for A&E has been increasing in recent years and there is a spurt in the number of births locally.
“These factors point to the need to maintain our A&E and maternity.”
Health minister Paul Burstow, MP for Sutton and Cheam, was born at St Helier.
He said: "This is a flawed conclusion from a flawed process. There is still a lot of water to flow under the bridge before final decisions are made.
"The panel have ignored the pressure on all the A&Es and maternity units in south west London.
"A cloud has gathered over St Helier but I believe we can mount a successful challenge to the assumptions that have led the panel to this conclusion.
"We have saved St Helier before, and we will fight to do so again."
Kevin O’Brien, Unison representative at Epsom, St Helier and Sutton Hospitals, said: “It’s absolutely appalling that on the day of the Queen’s speech they bring in this legislation.
“This whole scenario is absolute rubbish, they are treating the public with absolute contempt.
“I have a view that if you close our A&E it is the demise of our hospital.
“Without an A&E department – just like Sutton – once your A&E is gone you are no longer functioning as a district hospital.
“Jobs will go – they are already cutting back.
“We have a £57m deficit – they are trying to claw that deficit back.”
Statements in full:
Councillor Ruth Dombey, deputy leader of Sutton Council, said:
“The move to severely downgrade St Helier Hospital is shameful.
“NHS South West London have only considered closing units and reducing services when they should be cutting back on waste instead.
“Vital decisions have been made behind closed doors and the whole process is being led by managers who don’t have a stake in the area.
“Local people will be outraged to hear NHS South West London wants to close a maternity facility when Sutton has one of the highest birth rates in London, and close an A&E facility that is fit to burst and getting busier.
“To date the consultation process has been seriously flawed and it has failed to take into account the knock on effects that hundreds of job losses could have on Sutton and the surrounding area.
“This is public sector decision making at its worst; senseless, short-sighted and failing to listen to local people.”
Responding to the panel’s recommendation, trust chief executive, Matthew Hopkins, said:
“Whilst we accept there is a case for changing the way NHS services are provided in south west London, we are disappointed that the ‘scoring’ panel has made this recommendation.
“The key criteria we expected the panel to use in making its recommendation were clinical outcomes, safety and patient experience. We know we do well in these areas, especially when compared to our local hospitals, so it is regrettable the panel have come to this conclusion.
“However, it’s important to note that the panel’s recommendation is not binding and it is just one stage of a lengthy and complicated process. Crucially, it needs to pass through many other hoops, including a full public legal consultation. This will need to last at least 12 weeks and is expected to start in early autumn.
“We will of course continue to work with NHS South West London, our local NHS partners, GPs, MPs, councillors and local people to ensure our patients continue to receive the very best possible care, both now and in the future.”
On how other hospitals could manage an increase in A&E patients and new mums, Matthew added:
“St Helier’s A&E and maternity departments are busier than ever. Both departments saw, treated and cared for more people last year than ever before, with 81,739 patients treated in A&E and 3,317 babies born in our maternity unit. The numbers of patients and parents who use St Helier is increasing, not decreasing.
“The Better Services Better Value review’s plan to close an A&E is based on a major reduction in the numbers of people needing to use A&E departments across south west London.
“As such, we have consistently raised concerns about whether there are clear and robust plans in place across the NHS in south west London to enable that to happen and, in turn, reduce the number of patients who need our care.
“The increasing numbers of patients we treat in A&E, and babies that we care for in our maternity unit, combined with the high quality care we deliver, mean local people, patients and our own staff, need to be reassured that significant investments are being made elsewhere to provide the services they need, at the standards they deserve.”
On the suggestion the St Helier could become a dedicated planned care centre, Matthew added:
“Under the proposals, the hospital which loses its A&E and maternity will be designated as the dedicated planned care centre for elective surgery in south west London.
“Whilst, we recognise the benefits this offers for the NHS locally, we await with interest the financial analysis from NHS South West London that shows the planned care centre would be clinically and financially viable in the long term.”
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