St Helier Hospital at risk of being downgraded, as critical care services prepare to save more patients this winter

As St Helier Hospital prepares to treat more COVID-19 patients this winter, Merton Council has expressed disappointment at a decision not to review plans to close its accident and emergency department and consultant-led maternity services.

In July, Merton the council wrote to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, asking him to call in the proposed decision to downgrade St Helier Hospital for an independent review. This followed 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.

The decision-making business case, which sets out plans to spend £500million of government funding on improving health services at St Helier, Epsom and Sutton hospitals, advocates Belmont in the south of Sutton as the preferred location for a specialist emergency care hospital, which means that St Helier Hospital would be downgraded.

The Secretary of State asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) to do an initial assessment of the case, but Merton Council has just been informed that the panel will not be carrying out a full review.

The Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis MBE, said: “It is very disappointing news that the Independent Configuration panel has decided not to carry out a full review of plans to downgrade critical care services at St Helier Hospital.

“This does not change the fact that thousands of people in the most deprived parts of Merton will be adversely affected by the plans to close acute services at St Helier Hospital, including the accident and emergency department and the consultant-led maternity service.

“The impact of the pandemic has not properly been taken into account by the CCGs, but the lives of many more people with COVID-19 will be saved at St Helier Hospital this winter.”