One of south London’s biggest hospitals had to close its doors to admissions in its Accident and Emergency department last Friday, causing a knock-on effect to other NHS hospitals elsewhere in the capital, including Croydon’s Mayday.
It may only be early December, but Friday’s closure of the A&E at St George’s in Tooting, seeing A&E patients diverted to St Helier in Sutton and to Mayday, could be a worrying portent of things to come. Mayday – which the suits insist on trying to re-brand as “Croydon University Hospital” – said today that, despite unconfirmed reports, it had continued to accept A&E admissions throughout Friday. “We were busy,” a spokesman told Inside Croydon. “But there were no closures, nothing like that.”
The Keep Our St Helier Hospital campaign – KOSHH – reported yesterday that St George’s, “for a while at least, were not able to accept patients at their Accident and Emergency departments”. The short-term closure in Tooting demonstrated, albeit briefly, the inter-dependence and need for the alternative A&E departments across south London.
With Croydon’s Mayday currently having a £21 million new A&E department built to help serve a large area and rapidly growing population, health professionals and residents in Sutton and Carshalton are concerned that the Government may decide to withdraw funding from St Helier’s A&E and maternity departments.
According to KOSHH, whose information may have come from doctors and nurses working on the A&E frontline on Friday, dealing with patients diverted from Tooting, the temporary closure at St George’s “was a question of capacity”.
“Patients were instead being diverted to other hospitals in the area,” KOSHH reported.
“Thank goodness, for now at least, we still have the luxury of a little spare capacity in the system, at least some of the time – without it, who knows where patients in need of emergency care would have been diverted?” KOSHH said. “Just imagine where we would be if St Helier was no longer there in the case of such a situation. Transfer times would be longer to a more distant hospital, meaning that the already over-burdened and under-funded ambulances taking those patients would be tied up for longer.”
Last month, the chief executives of the King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation warned that an NHS winter crisis was “inevitable”, even if weather remained mild, putting the lives of some elderly and sick at risk because of over-stretched hospital services. They called on the Chancellor to boost healthcare funding urgently by giving services a larger share of promised Government investment early.
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