12:28pm Friday 11th May 2012
By Sophia Sleigh
Health bosses tried to defend a recommendation to close St Helier’s A&E and maternity amid angry scenes last night.
In a heated Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting the public posed questions to representatives of the Better Services Better Value (BSBV) panel at the Sutton Civic Centre.
When the BSBV team failed to satisfy the public with their answers, there were shouts of: “Answer the question please,” and “You haven’t even answered our question”.
Angry residents included a student midwife who said she was concerned on a personal level for the maternity unit and safety levels for women and babies in the area, as other local hospitals already struggle to cope with the number of births.
Jane Wilson, consultant obstetrician and co-chair of BSBV’s maternity clinical working group, said the changes were needed to improve staffing and safety levels.
Committee chairwoman Mary Burstow said: “You’ve spoken about the importance of making sure women have high quality care in hospital. What has not been addressed is the issue of, if St Helier maternity is closed, a Sutton woman would have to travel up to St Georges to give birth – not all babies obligingly arrive on time.”
She cited data given to her by St Helier Hospital and said: “The stats I have are that in the last four months 70 babies were born within the first hour of arriving at hospital. 90 babies were born within the first one to two hours, that’s one traffic jam in Tooting.”
Ms Wilson said for the whole of SW London that was not a figure she would recognise.
There were loud disturbances from the public and one person said: “But we are talking about St Helier.”
Ms Wilson said the figures were not typical and began to talk about home birth, at which point Mrs Burstow interjected to say the issue was not to do with home birth, but giving birth stuck in a traffic jam in Tooting.
A large applause erupted from the audience, with some shouting “here here.”
At the end of the public questioning, Mrs Burstow asked the BSBV to write to everyone individually with the answers to questions submitted on paper and to publish the answers on their website.
On Wednesday, a panel of 60 representatives made up from south west 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 NHS’s Better Service, Better Value healthcare review, which announced two months ago one of the hospitals faced the cuts.
A final decision on whether to shut the services is subject to more NHS scrutiny and a public consultation.
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