NHS Trust votes for St Helier closure, despite public opposition

The Tory Government is pushing ahead with plans to close the Sutton hospital where former Prime Minister Sir John Major was born

NHS chiefs in south-west London want to close all acute, emergency and maternity facilities at two large hospitals, and they are doing so by claiming that they have overwhelming public support.

St Helier Hospital: under threat, but still hitting its targets

Any closure at St Helier Hospital, in nearby Sutton, is sure to increase the demand for hospital services at Croydon’s Mayday Hospital, which has been groaning under the strain of ever-rising demand for treatment against a background of budgets which are squeezed in real terms each year.

St Helier is also one of those rarities in NHS hospitals in London: it has tended to meet all its performance targets in recent years.The Epsom and St Helier Hospital Trust held an important public meeting on Friday at which they were to decide if they should move to the next stage of their controversial plans.

Hospital-closer: NHS chief Daniel Elkeles

Daniel Elkeles, the Trust’s chief executive, presented what he called “feedback” from their consultations, or “engagement”, on the plans.

According to Colin Crilly, a member of the Keep Our St Helier Hospital (KOSHH) campaign who was at the meeting, Elkeles “gave the entirely false impression that the vast majority of the public were supportive and he urged the board to vote in favour of sending these proposals on to NHS bosses for consideration”.

Crilly says that the Trust’s “engagement” with the public has tended to be misleading, because they failed to explained clearly their full intentions.

Any decision to close the hospitals could prompt a national-level political row, since the hospitals under threat are in the constituencies of former coaltion government minister Tom Brake, the LibDem for Carshalton and Wallington, and the Epsom constituency of Tory cabinet minister Chris Grayling.

Crilly said, “KOSHH have studied these dangerous plans closely, have attended most ‘engagement’ meetings to highlight the many flaws.

“The plans are to close all acute, emergency and maternity services at both hospitals – with only the possibility that they might build, just one, new acute ‘facility’ at some future date, at an unspecified location.

Epsom’s Tory MP Chris Grayling: hasn’t objected to hospital closure

“Unfortunately, most of our local MPs are in favour of these dangerous plans and are also releasing misleading information.”

At Friday’s meeting, Lawrence Newman, who was chairing the event, appeared to sense the hostility in the room and tried to bypass a scheduled public Question & Answer and go straight to a vote. He was stopped from doing that when there were several loud and angry interventions from the gallery. “All but one of the public’s questions showed concern or downright opposition to the plans,” Crilly said.

The objections raised included Elkeles’ professional track record of cuts, service closures (including A&Es and maternity departments), the proposed Acute bed reductions, and the huge gap in provision from 2020 to 2024.

“All concerns were dismissed or given inadequate responses,” Crilly said.

And then the board voted in favour of the proposals.

“The chairman didn’t appear to count the ‘Yes’ votes, and barely asked if anyone wanted to vote against, or abstain. This made the meeting feel like a bit of a charade.”

Crilly says that, “KOSHH will continue to fight for all services in all of our hospitals, and we ask local people to join us. We must stop these plans before they advance any further.”

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2 Responses to NHS Trust votes for St Helier closure, despite public opposition

  1. Lewis White says:

    St Helier is ideally placed geographically for access by patients, on the big St Helier Estate, and at the centre of a web surrounded by Sutton, Cheam, North Cheam and Worcester Park, Carshalton, Wallington, and Mitcham, with quick journey times from all these places along the main roads that converge on Rosehill. I would say that most people live within 15 minutes drive of the hospital, which has a large car park .

    For people living in all these outer London districts, except North Mitcham which is closer to St George’s, St Helier is very easy to get to by car, which is how most outpatients and visitors to in-patients, and many people going to A and E , actually go to hospital. St Helier is also served from these areas by bus routes.

    For all of these people, if St Helier closes, it is going to be very hard and very, very slow to get to Croydon University Hospital , or to St George’s or Kingston. Journey times will go up from 15 minutes to 45 minutes out of rush hours, or an hour or more in rush hours. As any one who lives in these areas knows, to drive to West Croydon from Sutton or St George’s Tooting in rush hour is a major undertaking. A return journey, with a 1 hour visit to a loved one, will take 3 or even 4 hours.

    Even if they get there, the car parking at Croydon University is totally inadequate, and also very tight at St George’s. (I haven’t been to Kingston, and am not acquainted with its car park capacity).

    If St Helier closes, the other hospitals will be overwhelmed, it’s that simple. There will also be a hell of a lot of voters who now find that hospital visits become a major trauma for the visitors due to transport times.

    What about the air pollution too, and congestion, of all those extra hours of cars on the already crowded roads ?

    I cannot in any way understand how any MP for the Sutton area could support closure of St Helier. But not exactly a surprise that the MP for Epsom doesn’t mind. He still has Epsom Hospital to keep his Surrey voters happy. In reality, Epsom would definitely stay open, as it is strategically placed
    in NE Surrey, and would undoubtedly get some more services, transferred from St Helier.

    The Inside Croydon article mentions additional housing development , a very good point. Sutton area , including St Helier, must still have a lot of potential for additional housing.

    Has anyone also thought that Croydon itself is getting more residents, with more and more town centre redevelopment for residential, adding more pressure on to Croydon University Hospital ?

    My guess is that the NHS bosses have had a look at St Helier and worked out that its nice big site could be sold off to a developer for more housing, for big bucks. And, if this comes to pass, where will these new residents go if they need to be admitted to Hospital?. Not to St Helier’s, as it will be shut !

    It was always a bizarre thing to link Epsom and St Helier. St Helier should have been re-named Sutton St Helier. Maybe then Sutton MP’s would not have turned their backs on St H.

    The fact is, South West London needs St Helier .

  2. Neil Solman says:

    Where does Tom Brake stand, He`s been mute for a while, Seems like the Tories Dont want to win another election. Thanks a bunch

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