Merton Council is writing to the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), asking him to investigate the proposed decision to downgrade St Helier Hospital.
The letter is being sent following the approval of the decision making business case by the NHS Committees in Common of the South West London and Surrey Heartlands Clinical Commissioning Groups on 3 July, to locate a new specialist emergency care hospital in Belmont, south of Sutton, rather than at St Helier Hospital.
The council is calling on the EHRC to investigate because it believes that the effect of closing critical services, including the accident and emergency department, paediatrics and consultant-led maternity services, would be to disadvantage the most deprived residents in the hospital catchment area.
The Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Alambritis, who is a former EHRC commissioner, said: “Downgrading St Helier Hospital is a terrible decision, which will have a particularly detrimental impact on our most deprived residents. We are asking the Equality and Human Rights Commission to investigate whether the full adverse impact on BAME communities of closing critical health services at St Helier Hospital has been properly taken into account.
“The importance of this has been underlined by COVID-19 – people from BAME communities are more likely to become seriously ill after contracting the virus and, as we will be living with the pandemic for some time to come, this must be taken into account when planning future health services.”
Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Women and Equalities, Councillor Laxmi Attawar, said: “It is clear that BAME communities will be disproportionally adversely affected by the proposed decision to downgrade St Helier Hospital. The plans would result in an unacceptable risk of an inferior health service for residents who rely on acute care the most.
“We are questioning whether the needs of BAME communities have been thoroughly evaluated when planning critical health care services and if their views have been given sufficient consideration.”