Our health correspondent ALAN FINLAY reports on the threat of closure of an NHS facility, right under the nose of the local Conservative MP
There’s another round of cuts in services, closures and re-organisations coming to the NHS in Croydon and across south London, with one of the first casualties (no pun intended) feared to be the Sanderstead Clinic in Rectory Park, which treats 4,500 patients each year.
The Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, which owns the site, has this week said that they “continually review our estate”, and that “there are no agreed plans to close Sanderstead Clinic”.
Which means that there are plans to do so, just that they have yet to be formally agreed.
Any such closure could prove to be deeply embarrassing for Croydon Conservatives, as the Sanderstead Clinic is in the ward of their Town Hall leader, Tim Pollard, and not far from the home of former Tory MP, now chief of staff to Prime Minister Theresa Mayhem, gaffe-prone Gavin Barwell.
But with underused facilities at Purley War Memorial Hospital less than three miles away, the possibility arises for some of the Sanderstead Clinic’s services to be moved there.
That would then allow the Sanderstead Clinic to be flogged off to build a block of flats. The clinic could be closed within months.
The clinic is in the Croydon South constituency of Conservative loyalist Chris Philp MP, who only this week was still maintaining that funding for the NHS in Croydon was going up.
The harsh realities, however, are that Philp’s government has written to the Croydon NHS clinical commissioning group, CCG, to tell them to implement 20 per cent cuts (these will largely be redundancies to managerial and administrator posts), and is looking at merging Croydon’s CCG with several others across south-west London, making the NHS service more remote.
“They’re spatchcocking the NHS so that it can be devoured by American private healthcare providers,” was the rather florid description offered by one Croydon hospital staffer.
And despite Philp’s lap-dog loyal protestations, there’s another £20million-worth of cuts in Croydon NHS services, all trussed up and presented as “demand management” – where GPs will be expected to avoid prescribing certain drugs or not making some treatments available.
A little property speculation on the side will also helpbalance the books, too, hence the threat of the closure and sale of the Sanderstead Clinic.
The Riddlesdown Residents’ Association got wind of a rumour of about the sale of the building, and this week, Matthew Kershaw, the chief exec of Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, wrote to Philp saying, “We continually review our estate to make the best use of all of our premises to provide the best, most accessible and most efficient service we can to our patients. There are no agreed plans to close Sanderstead Clinic which is an important part of our estate and sees 4,500 patients a year.
“Our ongoing review includes how we utilise some of the empty clinic space in Purley War Memorial Hospital which is two miles away from Sanderstead and provides a range of services including minor injuries and minor illnesses.”
Who knew you could now get “minor injuries and minor illnesses” provided by the NHS?
Kershaw, who is on a salary of at least £170,000 a year, arrived in Croydon recently with a reputation for implementing NHS cut-backs. His letter continued: “Early conversations have begun to see what additional services, like physiotherapy or speech and language therapy, could move in to Purley to make this a central part of our care for people in the south of the borough but this does not mean changes at Sanderstead would have to happen.
“At this stage we are only looking at what is possible. No decisions have been made and there would be no movement of services without a clear explanation to local people.”
Which suggests that that is exactly what they are looking to do.
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I have been amazed that this site has lasted so long. It hasn’t had any investment in it for a decade and clearly NHS Property were waiting for the time to get their hands on it to enhance their manager’s final-year bonus.
However a huge elderly population in the area will have to make a longer journeys to a facility that will now be in heavy use. The Purley site does not appear to be underused at the times when I have visited it.