I am writing to give you an update on what has been happening with Epsom Hospital.
As you may remember, the Better Services Better Value team delayed its decision until the summer after all the challenges to their work that we generated a couple of months ago.
Since then there has been a concerted effort by the different local authorities and MPs involved in the issue in our part of Surrey to keep them under pressure. This has involved both continuing to challenge some of the assumptions in the BSBV programme, and also to look for alternatives. At my request the County Council hosted a meeting for all the health organisations in Surrey and the local authorities involved, plus Sir Paul Beresford and myself, to talk about alternative options for Epsom – and there are now a number of follow-up conversations taking place.
A joint letter was sent on our behalf by Surrey County Council last week putting a whole series of questions to the Chief Executives of the major hospitals included in the BSBV review as well as those in other adjoining areas. In particular we are trying to establish clearly what the cost of the proposals would be. It looks as if it would be several hundred million pounds, with no clear guarantee that funding would be available to pay for this. There are also likely to be knock-on costs at other Surrey hospitals, and we don’t know if they could cope.
It would be unfortunate to say the least if the medical profession took decisions about the future structure of services, with all the potential impact on the short term stability of the hospitals affected, without certainty that there is money available to pay for the relocation of services.
I have also challenged the BSBV team over their assertions about patient safety and quality. I have now obtained copies of the figures for safety at Epsom’s maternity department, and it is clear that it is currently way above the national average on most safety measures, and well above the main London hospitals included in their review – although to be fair they do handle more complex cases. One of the key arguments for change is patient safety, but clearly if Epsom is already one of the safer maternity units, the case for change seems much weaker to a non-doctor like me.
In the meantime, the financial crisis in the Epsom and St Helier Trust which prompted the inclusion of Epsom in the BSBV process seems to have eased. The forecast for the deficit this year, is that it will be substantially down, and that the Trust is on a path back to balance.
So if we have a hospital which is delivering a generally high quality and safe service, and which is sorting out its financial problems, it’s not really clear why change is so urgent.
The new Surrey Downs Commissioning Group is to hold a meeting in May at which it will decide whether to commit further funding to the BSBV process, and whether to go along with its likely conclusions. This will be a meeting held in public, and I will let you know time and venue a bit nearer the time so that people who want to attend are able to do so.
In the meantime, the Epsom Hospital campaign team is preparing plans for a public campaign if a decision to downgrade Epsom is put to a public consultation. Here you can be of help.
I want to expand the number of people I am in contact with as part of the campaign as far as possible so that if we need to get together a mass petition or letter writing campaign or another major campaign activity, I am in contact with as many people as possible. Please could you ask friends or neighbours locally if they want to receive these bulletins, and let me know their contact details if they do.
One other update. I am due to meet Southern and South West Trains in the next few days to discuss the issue of Epsom and Zone 6. More on that shortly.
With best wishes