I am writing to let you know that the options for the future of local hospitals have now been published by the Better Services Better Value team, the people who are leading the drive to reorganise services in SW London.
As expected they are bad news for Epsom.
All three options involve Epsom losing its A&E and maternity departments. In two of the three scenarios St Helier does as well. In a third option, Croydon loses its acute services and St Helier keeps them. I do not believe that this is a likely option, though.
The preferred option published by the BSBV team would see Epsom remaining as an elective centre, doing planned operations, while St Helier loses all of its inpatient services.
The most important thing to say is that this is a long way from being a done deal. First the local GP Commissioning Groups have to agree that these are options that they want to consult on. As I said last week, this is what our local doctors are meeting on the 17th to decide. It is a board meeting in public, not a meeting where everyone can chip in, but a packed room at the racecourse from 1.30 pm onwards would be a helpful message if you can get there.
After that there will be a lengthy period of consultation, before detailed planning can take place. Any agreement also has to be ratified at the top of the NHS. No final decisions will be taken until next year, and changes won’t happen for another four to five years.
Needless to say, I am strongly opposed to this, and we will campaign vigorously against the plans. There is a long established Epsom Hospital campaign group which will wheel into cation again.
Do bear in mind that this is the fourth time we have faced plans to downgrade Epsom since 2000, and there is no certainty that it will happen. This is the most serious to date though, as it is the doctors rather than the managers or the politicians who are driving this. Please do take advantage of any opportunity you have to tell your GP what you think.
If the meeting on the 17th decides to go along with the consultation, we will organise a whole series of protests and other activities over the coming weeks. I will provide you with an update on this shortly.
In the meantime I am working behind the scenes to get us back to a Surrey option for Epsom. There is sympathy for this at senior levels in the NHS centrally, and so I am hopeful we may be able to find a different option.
I will keep you posted.