The decade-long battle to save an 85-year-old hospital has taken another turn after health chiefs revealed they want to axe its emergency ward.
Campaigners think people in Merton would be worse off and could even die if accident and emergency care is closed down at St Helier Hospital in Wrythe Lane.
The eight-year-old Keep Our St Helier Hospital (KOSHH) is campaigning to keep acute treatment at both St Helier and Epsom hospitals.
But health chiefs last week told NHS England they want to provide care for the sickest and most at risk patients at just one hospital out of three – Epsom, St Helier or Sutton.
And they want a brand new ward at Sutton, with A&E, acute medicine, critical care, emergency surgery, hospital births and a children’s ward.
Sandra Ash from the KOSHH campaign group said: “Most people will have further to travel if there is just one ward. And some people could even die because of the greater journey times.
“In London distances don’t have to be that long to make a difference, because of the congestion.
“This would have a considerable impact on local people. If a hospital loses its A&E, that is what hospitals get money for.
“If you take away its major source of income it is not long before it is deemed no longer financially sustainable.”
The leader of Merton council has vowed to fight for St Helier to retain all of its wards.
A ‘pre-consultation business case’ has been put to NHS England by three Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) for Merton, Sutton and Surrey Downs. The three CCGs will meet in public to decide on their preferred option which will trigger formal public consultation.
Cllr Stephen Alambritis said: “I’m extremely disappointed that the Trust and the CCG appear to prefer an option that would remove essential services at St Helier.
“This is despite the overwhelming evidence of local need, and the clear opposing voice of Merton’s residents.”
A statement from the Epsom and St Helier Hospitals NHS Trust claims 85 per cent of treatment would be at the other two hospitals. – urgent treatment centres, outpatients, day case surgery, antenatal and postnatal clinics, chemotherapy and dialysis.
The trust statement reads: “It describes in detail the process to identify a compelling case for change, why ‘do nothing’ is not tenable, and the proposals for change and the implications.”
It adds that this latest submission is not a consultation document and is just to “bring everyone up to speed”.
Sutton council leader Councillor Ruth Dombey has backed the plans. She said: “We are ambitious for Sutton and this announcement signals another significant milestone along the journey to improve the health and wellbeing of the residents in our borough.
“The London Cancer Hub, a partnership between the council, the Royal Marsden and the Institute of Cancer Research will put Sutton on the world map for cancer treatment and research.
“I hope the submission from Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust will further improve services in the borough for all our hospital patients, including emergency cases and those most at-risk.”