St Helier and Mayday’s futures thrown into doubt once more

The clue was in the name. BSBV was supposed to stand for “Better Services Better Value”, but the BS bit gave it away.

St Helier Hospital in Sutton

St Helier Hospital in Sutton

Yesterday, after three wasted years and £8.2 million of tax-payers’ cash squandered on a politically inspired effort to undermine NHS hospital services in this part of south London, the BSBV scheme was scrapped as ineffectual, after having lost the support of an influential group of GPs in Surrey who opposed plans to axe Accident and Emergency and maternity services at Sutton’s St Helier and at Epsom hospitals.

A statement from BSBV said: “We do not propose to continue with our BSBV programme or to consult on the options that emerged from it, which have now been withdrawn.

“The next step will be for us to discuss our new approach with our boards and with local provider trusts and seek their support for it. We plan to announce our five-year strategy in June 2014.”

The immediate consequence is that the on-going provision of NHS A&E and maternity services in the area remains uncertain, which may mean that Croydon’s Mayday is once more under threat of cuts.

BSBV has caused uncertainty around the area’s major hospitals, and as well as the costs it incurred to the NHS, it has also caused delay and postponement of improvements in provision in south London. The BSBV process has already seen the shelving of a promised £220 million redevelopment of St Helier, agreed by Tory Chancellor Gideon Osborne in 2010 to provide hundreds of new beds and a day nursery.

Probably worst of all, BSBV created a Sophie’s Choice dilemma of appalling choices between hospitals in the area, St Helier v Mayday, St George’s or Epsom, when in fact a region with a growing population undoubtedly needs more provision of key services, rather than less.

While the politically inspired BSBV proposals to close the A&E and maternity units at St Helier – and therefore heaping huge extra demand on Mayday and other hospitals nearby – appears to have passed for now, senior clinicians continue to suggest that some key services will have to be cut. So again, departments at Mayday could be considered for the ConDem Government’s axe.

BSBV recommended shutting A&E and maternity units at two of five hospitals across Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Richmond, Sutton and Wandsworth. One of the options considered was closures at Mayday.

In a statement yesterday, the clinical commissioning groups, or CCGs, said that they will work on a new plan to meet rising pressure on local health services. The euphemism now being used instead of NHS cuts is “reconfiguration”.

“I think we will get to the stage where we will need to think about reconfiguration of services,” Paula Swann, the chief officer of Croydon CCG, told one local paper. “It’s not clear at this point what that would be, but it’s highly likely that reconfiguration will have to happen.”

Mayday Hospital signLondon’s ageing population is placing an increasing demand on NHS services. There is a shortage of consultants across the six south-west London boroughs, and the standards of care in the area’s hospitals varies widely: St Helier is generally well-regarded, while Mayday…

Swann said that the CCGs’ new process will bring about more incremental changes more quickly, some of which will be based on the work done by BSBV. A strategic plan will be submitted to the Department of Health in June.

Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Croydon North, condemned the BSBV. “This botched consultation has wasted £8 million that should have been spent on local health services and stems from the Government’s failure to properly fund the NHS in the first place,” Reed said.

Most viewed the BSBV proposals as a threat to A&E at St Helier, while offering investment at Mayday. But Reed maintains that his local hospital’s future was also uncertain: “The climbdown vindicates Labour’s campaign against proposals to downgrade Croydon’s A&E and leaves the Tories red-faced after they refused to oppose this threat. Our local hospital services need investment and improvement without delay.

“Local people will not accept any further plans to downgrade local services when the CCG chairs produce new proposals in June,” Reed said.

Matthew Hopkins, the chief executive of St Helier, said: “It has been a long road for us, which involved times of uncertainty for the future of our services, our patients and our staff. I’d like to thank our staff and volunteers who throughout this time have kept their focus on the day job and have continued to provide high quality care to our patients.

“We are absolutely committed to working with our clinical commissioning groups in further improving healthcare in the region…

“Just like all other NHS trusts across the country, we are developing a business plan for the future of our hospitals and services (including long-term financial modelling), which provides details of how we will continue to provide high quality care in an affordable, efficient way.”

Ahhh. NHS healthcare in 2014, with profitable bits being handed out to Tory party donors while the rest is dismantled piece-by-piece amid talk of business plans, reconfiguration and financial modelling.

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3 Responses to St Helier and Mayday’s futures thrown into doubt once more

  1. It is incorrect to attribute to Osborne the £219m that had been set aside, but other than that, this is a good piece and I thank you for writing it.

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