Critical GPs cast doubt over St Helier Hospital closures
A damning survey of GPs has cast doubt over the future of controversial NHS plans to close frontline departments at St Helier Hospital.
The results of the internal survey of GPs in the Sutton Clinical Commissioning Group (SCCG) - that will be responsible for running health services in Sutton from April next year- highlighted serious concerns among doctors over plans to close St Helier's accident and emergency (A&E), maternity, and children's units.
Without support from local GP commissioners like SCCG, the plans, part of NHS SW London's Better Services, Better Value (BSBV) review to close the units in 2016-17 will not be given the green light by the Department of Health.
The results of the internal survey, leaked to this newspaper, showed 67 per cent of those surveyed disagreed with St Helier having no A&E, and 73 per cent disagreed with St Helier maternity patients having to be treated outside Sutton.
Sixty-three per cent said a minor injuries unit or urgent trauma centre would not be sufficient for patients in Sutton, and 68 per cent disagreed with having just one children's inpatient paediatric unit in SW London, which is set to be based at St George's Hospital.
Sixty-five per cent said they did not believe improvements to St George's, Kingston, and Croydon Hospitals, that are set to get better staffed A&E and maternity units, were deliverable.
Paul Burstow, MP for Sutton and Cheam, said: "These results are another powerful blow against the closures at St Helier, that have been shipping water for weeks, as it shows the clinical support is just not there for these plans."
Tom Brake, MP for Carshalton and Wallington, said the closures could not be approved without support from GPs. He said decisions on future services should be left to GPs when they take over services next year.
Both MPs and Sutton Council leader Ruth Dombey are to meet with secretary of state for health Andrew Lansley in September to discuss their concerns.
Dr Brendan Hudson, chairman of SCCG did not comment on the lack of support for closures at St Helier among GPS. In a statement , he said: "GPs in Sutton support the BSBV programme’s aspiration to improve hospital care by concentrating specialist resources and medical and nursing staff in fewer hospitals to ensure that local people in Sutton receive the best possible healthcare in the most appropriate setting.
Sixty-three per cent of GPs agreed concentrating resources on three A&Es in SW London was a good idea, and 71 per cent supported three maternity units instead of four. Ninety per cent said the BSBV review was justified.
Dr Hudson added: "No decisions have been made about the future of St Helier Hospital, or any other hospital in South West London, and the result of the planned public consultation will rightly help inform Sutton GPs’ decisions on the way forward."
In May, when St Helier was recommended as the hospital earmarked for the closure, SCCG said it was "concerned with the outcome and what it might mean for Sutton if a proposal is put forward to close the A&E and maternity units at St Helier."
A spokesman for BSBV said: "Local clinical commissioning groups including Sutton have been involved in the BSBV review from the beginning and sit on the programme board and clinical strategy group.
"We held a major event for GPs in December and we will continue to work closely with Sutton GPs throughout the public consultation."