Demonstrators keep fighting to save St Helier

July 31, 2012 10:58 AM

Angry demonstrators lobbied committee members as they arrived for a crucial meeting to discuss the future of St Helier Hospital on Thursday (26 July).

The protesters were outside Fairfield Halls in Croydon to demand a U-turn on a recommendation to close the hospital's A&E, Maternity and Children's wards and turn it into a centre for planned surgery.

Members of the Joint Boards of South West London Primary Care Trusts were there to hear an update from the Better Services Better Value team which in May suggested that it should be St Helier and not Croydon or Kingston hospitals that lost the vital services.

Leader of Sutton Council, Ruth Dombey, said: "The demonstration showed the strength of feeling against this scheme which they are trying to rush through without proper costing or consideration."

Inside she told delegates: "This isn't just about St Helier. Patients from Ham to New Addington would be expected to come to St Helier for planned surgery. It simply won't happen, you are talking about the end of St Helier Hospital."

In an impassioned speech she pleaded for the hospital's future, telling members of the PCTs - which are due to be disbanded on 1 April next year: "St Helier Trust is working on the Futures Options project with local clinicians, GPs and the council.

"Leave us to come up with a viable plan that we will implement. Not you, you won't be here after April."

The meeting followed a South West London Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on Tuesday (24 July) where councillors criticised BSBV for once again failing to provide a proper business plan to justify losing services at St Helier. They also criticised them for failing to explain how their estimates of the cost of the various options were reached.

Cllr Mary Burstow, Chair of Sutton's Scrutiny Committee, said: "It is absolutely outrageous that they did not present us with a business plan. With them it is always tomorrow, never today.

"They promised a plan at our last meeting and failed to deliver, it really makes you wonder how they can be trusted to oversee massive changes to healthcare in south west London which will affect people in the area for generations."

BSBV has now pledged to make a draft version of the business plan available to councillors in time for the next meeting on September 3, but Cllr Burstow said: "It's just not good enough. We cannot be expected to work on something that is so important without having the proper, completed document. It's yet another example of the absolute shambles this whole process has become."

The proposals were widely expected to go out to consultation in the next couple of weeks, but, in the face of opposition from campaigners who have highlighted a series of problems, that has now been delayed until September at the earliest.

And BSBV members told the South West London Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee that although St Helier is currently the preferred option, it is possible that the alternative of making Croydon Hospital the planned surgery centre instead of St Helier could also be put out for consultation.

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