11:50pm Friday 29th June 2012
By Lauren May
Hundreds of residents have expressed anger over plans to close vital services at St Helier hospital.
Residents packed Morden's civic centre on Thursday for a public meeting led by Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden, after an independent panel recommended St Helier's accident and emergency and maternity unit should close as part of NHS south west London’s Better Service Better Value Review (BSBV).
One man stood up and said: "My wife needed to be taken to Kingston Hospital A&E.
"They could just about cope then with the number of patients.
"How are they going to cope with another 33 per cent of patients [from St Helier] when they can only just about cope today?"
Another man, who said he works in mental health, said: "I’m worried about facilities for people who need urgent, swift psychiatric treatment.
"They will be sent further away and have to wait longer for services.
"I think it’s a real injustice if you close down that A&E"
At the meeting, the methods used by panellists to arrive at their recommendation were criticised by Dr Philip Howard, who called it an "exceptionally speculative exercise" said no account was given to previous experience within the NHS.
He said: "That panel met to decide the options and they were instructed not to decide on the basis of what we have done.
"They were not asked to consider our record. They were asked and expected to operate in an evidence free environment - to be given some options and to speculate on what would happen given those options in 2016/17."
However Dr Howard Freeman, a panel member and Rayne’s Park GP defended the process and his belief that closing services is the right decision.
He said: "We need to make sure that we have the correct 24 hour, 7 days a week consultant cover at all of our A+E’s - we don’t have enough A+E consultants.
"Even if there were enough we don’t have the funding, so we have to work with the numbers we have and make sure that within that we can provide the correct consultant cover."
He added: "It’s very difficult to say that [the scoring day] wasn’t robust in the sense that the outcome between the other options was so great, that it gives you the confidence to enable you to move forward.
"The fact the option of no change was discounted starts to say that you have to make change.
"I’m in no doubt that we have to make changes to clinical services to ensure that they are safer for the public, more effective and viable for the long terms so I’m quite comfortable with the outcome."
The option to close services at St Helier Hospital and replace them with a surgery centre was favoured by panellists with a score of 205, 76 points ahead of both Kingston and Croydon.
Last week The Consultation Institute, an expert body that advises on best practise in public consultation and engagement, approved the BSBV panel event.
On July 26, the NHS south West London board will meet to finalise the recommendation ahead of a public consultation which is expected to start in September.
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