St Helier A&E, maternity and children's ward threat debated in Parliament
Concerns about NHS plans to close St Helier Hospital's accident and emergency unit, maternity and children’s wards have reached Parliament.
On Tuesday, Carshalton and Wallington MP Tom Brake raised question marks about the financial viability of NHS SW London's plans in a Government question and answer debate on health issues.
He said: "The clinician-led Better Services Better Value review has condemned the accident and emergency unit, and the maternity and children’s wards at St Hospital hospital, because it expects out-of-hospital services to be expanded instead.
"Will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss local concerns that the £5 million allocated to provide the out-of-hospital services will be totally inadequate to the task?"
Health minister Simon Burns said any proposals for service changes would be subject to a three month public consultation and be subject to the Secretary of State’s four tests.
These require the proposals to show support from GP commissioners, public and patient engagement, clinical evidence, and consistency with current and prospective patient choice.
Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh told Mr Burns Government health experts the National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT), that conducts an independent clinical review whenever a major reconfiguration of NHS services is proposed, were sceptical at the review's assertions the closures could be achieved because numbers of patients going to A&E would be halved.
She said: "For most people in my constituency it is easier to go to a walk-in centre or A&E than to a GP, so A and E visits have continued to rise year after year. The fact that GPs, who are making all the financial decisions, will get more funding if there are fewer A&E visits, does not mean that people will stop going.
"Apparently, some GPs now realise that those plans are looking very dodgy. A poll of Sutton’s GPs has shown a majority against the closure and a similar poll is taking place of Merton’s GPs that will, I am sure, show the same.
She added: "It is not just St Helier’s A&E that is under threat-so is its maternity unit. However, of the four hospitals, St Helier has the only maternity unit that meets clinical standards. If we lose St Helier, the other three hospitals will need to deliver a third more babies than they do now. It is widely accepted that maternity units delivering more than 6,000 births a year are a bad thing. It is far better, and far safer, to have slightly smaller units with good midwife cover, but not in south-west London, it seems.
"We will lose our children’s unit and other services, such as intensive care. The "Better Services Better Value" review states that, to compensate, GPs will force patients from all around south-west London to go to St Helier for minor, planned treatments, but who would want an operation, even a routine one, in a hospital as depleted as St Helier?
"What is more, making people in St Helier drive across the suburbs for A and E and maternity and making people drive to St Helier for routine operations will add literally millions of miles of journeys to our already congested roads. No, the impact of that is not considered.
"The other obvious questions have not been asked. Why would a patient from Kingston want to drive the best part of an hour to St Helier for a treatment they can currently get in Kingston? The other three hospitals do not like the idea either, as they cannot afford to lose the income from those planned treatments."
Mr Burns replied: "The honourable member for Mitcham and Morden mentioned the potential reconfiguration at St Helier hospital. As she will know, the proposals are still being worked on. There has not yet been a consultation process, but the decisions have been taken locally by the local NHS. I trust that, if and when there is a consultation process, she will get involved."
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