Health Secretary asks independent panel to assess decision
St Helier Hospital
The boss of Epsom and St Helier Hospitals has said he “stands firmly” by plans to build a new emergency hospital in Sutton.
In July Merton Council wrote to health secretary Matt Hancock demanding an independent review into the decision which will see emergency units at St Helier and Epsom replaced with an emergency hospital on the same site as the Royal Marsden in Downs Lane.
Now it has been revealed that Mr Hancock has asked an Independent Reconfiguration Panel to do an initial assessment of the case.
Merton Council’s argument is that having the specialist hospital in Belmont would mean moving emergency health services away from deprived areas into a more affluent place.
The decision for a change in how hospitals are run in South London was made on 3 July following a public consultation which ran from January until April with 4,172 respondents.
It was run by Improving Healthcare Together, a combination of CCGs in Surrey Downs, Sutton and Merton.
The leader of Merton Council, councillor Stephen Alambritis, said he hopes that the panel decides on a full review.
He said: “Moving acute services, including the accident and emergency department and consultant-led maternity care, out of St Helier Hospital is a terrible decision, which would disadvantage residents in the most deprived areas of Merton.
“The Covid-19 pandemic continues to have a massive impact on critical health services and this must be fully taken into account by the clinical commissioning groups.”
But chief executive of the health trust Daniel Elkeles said that the £500 million investment, including the refurbishment of the outdated buildings of Epsom and St Helier, will be a “fantastic benefit to our local communities”.
He said, “Over the course of the past five years, we have set out the reasons why we need to change and why this investment is so badly needed. It is obvious to everyone who works in our buildings and the patients we see that our buildings aren’t fit for 21st century healthcare, and that has become even more apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We stand firmly by our plans to transform the quality of healthcare in our region, and welcome the scrutiny that this initial assessment from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) will bring. We will continue to work on our plans and will respond to any recommendations or suggestions that the IRP make to the Secretary of State.”
It is expected that the new hospital will open its doors in 2025.
Tara O'Connor - Local Democracy Reporter
October 2, 2020