The Future for St. Helier

February 10, 2012 11:55 AM

I know that many of you will have been concerned to hear that St George's Hospital has pulled out of the proposed merger with St Helier Hospital. This is a disappointment because all hospitals are required to gain Foundation Trust status by 2014 and St Helier's deficit means it is unable achieve this by itself; essentially our hospital needed this merger.

For more than a decade, our local community has campaigned to save St Helier hospital when it has faced various threats. Now we face another challenge ahead of us, another fight for our hospital and I firmly believe we can succeed again.

We must now focus on the alternative options available to safeguard the hospital and the service it provides to our community including its specialist healthcare services, such as the renowned renal unit, our A&E and maternity services. Earlier this week Paul Burstow and I met with Matthew Hopkins, the Chief Executive of Epsom and St Helier University NHS Trust, to discuss how the Trust, local GPs and Sutton Council could work together to provide an alternative to Foundation status.

St Helier needs time to make the right decision, not a hasty one, about the future of the hospital. Last week in Parliament, I challenged the Prime Minister to ensure that Trust will be allowed the time it needs to work with the GPs, local authorities and other partners to develop a new proposal suited to local needs. I will keep pressing to ensure that St Helier is given adequate time.

In the meantime, I am delighted that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander MP, confirmed to me that, despite the collapse of merger talks, the £219 million funding for the re-development of St Helier Hospital remains in place. This means that St Helier Hospital will continue to be a fixed point in the NHS landscape in South West London, serving the interests of local people.

While the failure of the proposed merger is undoubtedly unsettling, it also creates an opportunity to improve patient care by building co-operation between the medical, community, Council and voluntary sectors. The funding to redevelop the hospital remains in place, support for the hospital remains strong; if the past demonstrates anything, it demonstrates that if we work together we can safeguard our local healthcare services for the future. This is another St Helier Hospital campaign we can win together.

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