St Helier's children's ward earmarked for closure
10:05am Thursday 17th May 2012 in Save St Helier
St Helier Hospital has been dealt another major blow as its children’s ward has been earmarked for closure, the Sutton Guardian can reveal.
The same NHS review that last week recommended the hospital lose its accident and emergency (A&E) and maternity departments, has now stated the 18-bed inpatient ward at its specialist children’s hospital should also be axed.
A clinical working group carrying out a review of children’s services in south-west London will recommend to health bosses next week that children’s wards at St Helier, Kingston and Croydon University hospitals all close.
Hundreds of very sick children and their families could face increased journey times to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, which would become the only specialist overnight stay children’s ward in the region.
St Helier’s children’s A&E also faces the axe under the NHS’s Better Services, Better Value (BSBV) review.
The proposals, which only emerged at a Sutton Council scrutiny meeting last week, have raised concerns about the long-term future of services of St Helier’s dedicated children’s unit, the Queen Mary's Hospital for Children.
Sutton Council’s deputy leader Councillor Ruth Dombey said: “Queen Mary’s has been a key part of our community for many years and has provided excellent services for children.
“For the families who rely on its services, travelling to Tooting is too much at a time when they already have so much to deal with.
“Landing this on us by the back door, when we’re already reeling from the proposed closure of our local A&E and maternity services, is especially hard to stomach.”
She said it was outrageous the report on the future of children’s services remained unpublished while BSBV panel members made their decision to recommend St Helier’s children’s A&E close, which in turn would mean the closure of the children’s ward.
She said: “It’s outrageous that the scoring panel was asked to comment on the closure of our children’s unit without even being able to view any of the evidence.
It makes a mockery of the whole process and makes us even more determined to fight this attack on our local hospital.”
Bianca Effemey, co-founder of cancer charity Momentum, which has invested £200,000 into improving children’s wards in south-west London, criticised the recommendation to close the three children’s wards.
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.”
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, although Croydon and Kingston hospitals would keep specialist children’s A&E departments and have paediatric assessment units (PAU) where children could stay for up to 24 hours for assessment.
St Helier Hospital declined to comment as the recommendations have yet to be published.
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.”
If approved, the closures would then be subject to public consultation.