The London Borough of Merton will commission its own independent assessment of plans to move vital services away from St Helier Hospital – after Government ministers ignored the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on admissions and waiting times.
Despite a fundamental impact on health needs, ministers have so far ignored requests to take into account any post-Covid-19 data in their bid to cut services and move them further away from communities who live in some of the most deprived areas of Merton.
Along with saving the much-needed maternity, emergency and children’s in-patient services, the council is calling for urgent investment into the hospital to ensure high quality services can be provided and that NHS staff are not forced to work in a hospital falling into disrepair.
Council Leader, Councillor Ross Garrod said: “We have long campaigned to save St Helier – our much-loved community hospital where hard working staff provide critical care for our residents. I am appalled that the Government is intent on moving lifesaving health services away from the most deprived area of Merton.
“The decision to downgrade services at St Helier Hospital – closing the emergency, maternity, and children’s in-patient services – fails to understand the needs of residents living in the area surrounding the hospital, who have the lowest life expectancy in the borough and are more likely to be in poor health – living with chronic conditions and disabilities which require continued hospital care.
“That’s why we are commissioning a new independent Impact Assessment to truly demonstrate the impact moving vital services away from St Helier Hospital would have on local people. Something we feel we have to do because, so far, the Government has ignored our calls for a new assessment and has failed to take into account the enormous impact that the pandemic continues to have on essential health services.
“St Helier Hospital was one of the first in the country to receive patients with COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic. Hospitalisation and mortality rates due to the virus were highest among residents living in the diverse areas of the borough closest to St Helier Hospital. Three years on, bed occupancy rates continue to rise as ambulances queue outside the A&E department, where patients face long waits for treatment. St Helier Hospital and all its existing services need to be saved to provide vital care to those who need it.”
The council is asking local residents to take to social media and share their own stories of St Helier to help raise awareness of the hospital’s plight with the #SaveStHelier hashtag.