Detailed proposals for investing £500 million to improve hospitals for more than 700,000 people in Surrey, Sutton, and Merton were published on Wednesday 18 December 2019.
The draft documents have been published ahead of health leaders meeting on Monday 6 January 2020 to review plans for a full public consultation in early January to hear local people’s views.
The proposals outline three options and a preferred option, for the location of a new 21st century hospital facility to bring together services for the most unwell patients, as well as births in hospital. All three options would see the majority of services (85%) staying at Epsom and St Helier hospitals, with an investment of more than £80m in the current buildings. Both hospitals would run 24/7, 365 days a year, with urgent treatment centres, inpatient and outpatient services.
The proposals make it clear that all three options could be delivered by the local NHS.
The preferred option for the new state-of-the-art hospital facility is proposed to be Sutton Hospital, next to the Royal Marsden specialist cancer hospital. The other two options would be for the new facility to be at Epsom Hospital or St Helier Hospital. An additional urgent treatment centre is also proposed on the Sutton Hospital site if it were to be the location of the new hospital facility.
Also outlined, are the detailed and thorough assessments of site options which resulted in Sutton scoring as the highest for the location of the new hospital facility, called the ‘specialist emergency care hospital’. Services provided at this ‘specialist emergency care hospital’ would include A&E, critical care, emergency surgery, births in hospital and inpatient children’s beds.
The proposals explain that Sutton would have the greatest benefit for the most people, the least overall impact on travel for older people and those from deprived communities, while also having the smallest increase in average travel time for the most people. A new facility at Sutton would be the easiest and fastest to build – taking around four years, rather than up to seven for the other two options of the specialist emergency care hospital being built at Epsom or St Helier.
The funding for the Epsom and St Helier Trust, announced nationally in September 2019, would address major workforce, buildings and financial pressures: including a lack of doctors and health specialists, and mounting costs to keep repairing buildings older than the NHS, and fund temporary staff.
Merton GP and Clinical Chair of NHS Merton Dr Andrew Murray said:
“This £500m investment gives us the chance to develop a brand new 21st century hospital facility for local people for generations to come. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and we need to make this happen.
“One thing that 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.”
Surrey GP and Clinical Chair of NHS Surrey Downs Dr Russell Hills said:
“It’s important to stress that under all the proposals and options in these draft documents, the vast majority of the current services would continue at refurbished Epsom and St Helier Hospitals. Both hospitals would continue to provide care for people with injuries like broken bones, for day surgery, beds for older people recovering from illness and outpatient services – with urgent treatment available for local people day and night.
“I want my most unwell patients to be able to get a fast diagnosis, start treatment more quickly, to help speed-up their recovery. These proposals set out how bigger teams of expert hospital staff at a specialist emergency care hospital could achieve this.”
Sutton GP, and Clinical Chair of NHS Sutton, Dr Jeff Croucher said:
“I am a full-time GP seeing patients every day, I care about their experiences and the care they receive both in, and out of hospital. It’s not acceptable that very sick patients are wheeled around in their beds often going outside in the rain, to get to different parts of the hospital, because the old buildings are not connected. It’s not acceptable that we use ambulances to move people around the hospital for treatment because the lifts break and are too small for modern hospital beds. It’s not acceptable that we don’t have enough single rooms for patients who are at the end of their lives, or for patients who need better privacy and dignity. We must make sure this investment comes into the Epsom and St Helier Trust, for the sake of all our local patients, their children and grandchildren.”
At a meeting in public in Epsom on Monday 6 January 2020, representatives from NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Surrey Downs, Sutton, and Merton will consider going to public consultation on all three options, including making a decision about a preferred option for consultation.
Health leaders were keen to emphasise that, even if CCGs agreed to launch a public consultation in early January, no decisions would be made on the future of Epsom and St Helier Hospitals until the Spring/Summer when CCGs would consider the views of local people, and all the clinical and financial evidence before making any decisions.
Notes to Editors
Papers published ahead of the Monday 6 January 2020 meeting are:
- A draft pre-consultation business case setting out the detailed clinical and financial models for all the options
- Draft consultation documents – a summary version and the full consultation document, and the consultation questionnaire
- The full draft consultation plan was assessed and approved by an independent organisation called The Consultation Institute who review consultation best practice across the UK.
- Seven criteria were used to assess the three hospital sites and show Sutton as the preferred option:
- Quality of care.
- Long-term clinical sustainability.
- Meeting the health needs of local people.
- Access, including travel.
- How easy it is to deliver.
- Fit with the NHS long-term plan.
- Independent clinical experts reviewed the proposals. The Clinical Senates of London and the South East – bodies that represent senior GPs and hospital doctors to review any proposals to change services – stated that there are significant benefits to bringing together the six acute hospital services into a new purpose-built specialist emergency care hospital on one of the three sites.
With the help of patient, carer, voluntary and community groups – including Healthwatch – more than 1,500 were involved in shaping initial proposals. What they said helped change the opening hours of the proposed urgent treatment centres to round the clock instead of 8am-8pm.