Just when you thought that Tory cuts to the NHS in this part of London could not get worse, they do. Health correspondent JAMES KILLDARE has seen the secretive STP report which could doom St Helier and St George’s, Tooting
NHS officials have responded to The King’s Fund report published on Monday by denying that there are plans under discussion to close one of five major hospitals in south-west London, possibly including Croydon’s Mayday and Tooting’s St George’s.
Oh no: under Tory Health Minister Jeremy Hunt’s STP – “Sustainability and Transformation Plan”, officials are looking at the possibility of closing two sites out of St George’s, Kingston, Croydon, St Helier or Epsom.
The King’s Fund report flushed this admission out, with the draft report for this part of the capital being made available in response. The draft demonstrates ably why Unite, the public services union, has re-named STP as “Slash Trash and Privatise”.
The corporate denial was issued by someone called Rory Hegarty, who describes himself as “Director of Communications and Engagement, South West London STP”, and who presumably draws a good salary from our National Health Service but has never changed a bed pan nor got himself qualified to prescribe as much as a paracetamol.
Yesterday, Hegarty said, “Contrary to misleading media coverage, we …wanted to confirm that there are no proposals to close any hospital in south west London.”
Hegarty then went on to prove the old PR maxim: when in a hole, stop digging. Having denied the findings of The King’s Fund report, Hegarty writes: “We are suggesting our hospitals will need to work differently, with more clinical networking and possibly one less hospital providing acute services such as A&E, obstetrics and specialist paediatrics.”
And he then provided a link to the draft report on the future of NHS care in this part of south London which contains a section in which it is admitted that this could even involve the closure of large sections of two hospitals, and that their budgets lack the means for extensive rebuilding works required at two of the sites in particular: St George’s and St Helier, suggesting that both are under serious threat of closure.
To anyone who works in the NHS in this part of London or who uses its services, the idea of reducing the number of accident and emergency, intensive care units or maternity wards in a part of the country where demand is growing rapidly seems plainly absurd. The need for such expert facilities throughout the area were shown a week ago, when St George’s and Mayday were the emergency care centres where victims of the Sandilands tram derailment were taken for life-saving treatment.
The King’s Fund Report this week had said that under Hunt, the Department of Health had issued instructions to the bureaucrats compiling these STP reports in 44 areas across England to avoid consulting patients or practitioners, and that they had even provided instructions on how to block Freedom of Information requests.
Now that report is available for all to see.
The report states clearly: “We are very unlikely to be able to deliver services that meet clinical quality standards across five acute hospital sites. In particular, clinicians do not believe that we will be able to recruit or pay for sufficient workforce to deliver seven-day services at five acute sites.”
Seven-day services is Hunt’s genius plan to work junior doctors into the ground on new practices which the British Medical Association, the doctors’ union, has criticised as being impractical.
The south-west London report’s authors continue: “While we aim to balance the financial position for the whole health economy, we will have individual Trusts remaining in recurrent deficit by 2021 because they are running acute services below an efficient size.”
Croydon’s main hospital is already under special measures because of its difficulties in managing to stretch its budget – which has diminished in real terms – to cover ever-growing demand for services.
The report also states: “We have hospital buildings on all acute sites which need capital investment, and two sites with buildings which are increasingly unfit for purpose (St George’s and St Helier). We have therefore looked at whether we can design a more appropriate configuration of acute services that improves the clinical and financial viability of our acute Trusts. We intend to engage with the public further on
this shortly.” That’s nice of them.
They then recount two possible hypotheses. “The evidence suggests that we could reduce the number of acute sites run by the four acute trusts from the current five and this could improve the quality of care…”.
Hypothesis One is: “That four acute sites is an appropriate configuration to deliver clinically and financially sustainable care in south west London”. Meaning the closure of one hospital.
Or Hypothesis Two: “That three acute sites is an appropriate configuration to deliver clinically and financially sustainable care in south west London”.
Or, in simple English, the closure of A&E and other key departments at two of the current hospital sites.
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