The leader of Merton council has vowed to continue to fight plans to downgrade St Helier Hospital.
Councillor Stephen Alambritis made the pledge as NHS Merton, Sutton and Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), which are branding themselves Improving Healthcare Together, began a public consultation on Wednesday on plans to spend £500million of government funding on improving health services at St Helier, Epsom and Sutton Hospitals.
The consultation names Sutton as the preferred option of the three sites for a new specialist emergency care hospital, on a site next to the Royal Marsden Hospital, which provides cancer care. This means that St Helier Hospital would lose its accident and emergency department, as well as other vital services including the consultant-led maternity unit.
Merton council will formally respond to the public consultation and is urging as many residents as possible to have their say before the closing date on Wednesday, April 1.
Cllr Alambritis said: “The plans being put forward are terrible. A clear wish to downgrade St Helier hospital has been declared under cover of a ‘consultation exercise’. How can people in Merton have any faith in this at all?
“A vanity project miles from those in greatest need cannot be the answer to our health issues. The effect on Merton’s residents is just seen as irrelevant and the council will fight this every step of the way.
“It is critical that everyone who depends on St Helier Hospital has their say in its future by responding to this consultation.”
Dr Andrew Murray, a Merton GP and clinical chairman of NHS Merton CCG, said: “This £500m investment gives us the chance to develop a brand new 21st century hospital facility for local people for generations to come.
“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we need to make this happen. One thing is clear – if we don’t change how we provide our hospital services, the quality and safety of care for people is going to get worse – we already face a shortage of doctors, and never-ending repair costs for buildings older than the NHS.
“It’s really important that local people look at the evidence and give us their views. Our assessments point to Sutton as the preferred option for a new hospital facility, but the NHS could also deliver a brand new hospital at Epsom or St Helier. I would urge everyone in Surrey Downs, Sutton and Merton to get involved – there are many ways to have your say.”
The public consultation will be available here until Wednesday, April 1. To request a hard copy of the document, email email@example.com or call 020 3880 0271.